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IRISH AMERICA June /APRIL/MAY July 2011

2011

Canada $4.95 U.S. $3.95 $3.95

CHARTING IRELAND’S WAY FORWARD

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY THE IRISH BRIGADE IN THE

CIVIL WAR REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND LOSS

MEGHAN O’ROURKE ‘GREEN GEORGETTE’ A STORY BY

EDNA O’BRIEN YOUNG LORDS AND LADIES OF

IRISH DANCE

Re-Imagining Ireland with

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IRISH AMERICA June / July 2011 Vol. 26 No. 4

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30

34 58

66 F E AT U R E S 12 THE WAY FORWARD Taoiseach Enda Kenny on his plan for Ireland. Interview by Patricia Harty.

54 PORTRAIT OF AN IRISH

30 IRELAND’S FOOD

58 WRITING THROUGH GRIEF Meghan O’Rourke talks about her memoir, The Long Goodbye.

REVOLUTION

Sharon Ní Conchúir explores Ireland’s emerging culinary trends. 34 GABRIEL BYRNE,

70 IRELAND-AMERICA, THE

ARTIST

TIES THAT BIND

Louis le Brocquy: A 20th Century Master. Story by Mark Axelrod.

Kristin Romano visits the groundbreaking exhibition at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

62 WHAT ARE YOU LIKE? Bill Whelan answers 15 questions.

76 CITY OF LITERATURE Edythe Preet shares some Joycean recipes in honor of Dublin.

CULTURAL AMBASSADOR

The acclaimed Irish actor discusses his latest role: promoting Irish arts abroad. 40 THE IRISH BRIGADE The shining role of the Irish Brigade in the American Civil War. 50 THE GREEN GEORGETTE A short story by Edna O’Brien.

4 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

64 JULIE FEENEY: IMPOSSIBLY TALENTED

Tara Dougherty speaks with Ireland’s rising star of chamber pop. 66 YOUNG LORDS AND LADIES OF THE DANCE

Four young Irish step dancers diary the World Irish Dance Championships.

DEPARTMENTS

PHOTO: HANNAH BETH KING

40

6 8 10 14 15 28 48 72 74 78 80 82

The First Word Readers Forum News In Brief Irish Eye on Hollywood Hibernia Quotes Roots Music Books Crossword Those We Lost Photo Album


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{the first word} By Patricia Harty

IRISH AMERICA Mortas Cine

Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd PHOTO: KIT DE FEVER

Let the Irish Apply

Pride In Our Heritage

Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Kate Overbeck Art Director: Marian Fairweather

fter all these years in America, I still feel like an immigrant. Though I proudly hold American citizenship, it is other immigrants that I most readily identify with. “Where are you from?” I ask waiters and cab drivers, even a woman on the subway (we were so caught up in our chat about how “there is no place in the world like New York City” that I missed my stop). The immigrant contribution to America is especially on my mind as the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War is being commemorated at every turn. Other immigrants enlisted, but no other ethnic group is so closely linked to the Civil War as the Irish. As many as 200,000 soldiers in the Union Army, including seven generals, were born in Ireland. (When you consider the small size of our island, practically every family must have had a son in the Union army.) And surely the Irish who survived the Famine only to end up fighting in the Civil War must have thought they were in hell – 600,00 soldiers dead and as many maimed for life. The first casualty was an Irishman, Private Daniel Hough from my home county of Tipperary. Born in 1825, Hough immigrated to America and enlisted in the Army in October 1849. He was killed in the attack on Fort Sumter (a cannon he was loading exploded) on April 12, 1861, the day that marked the start of the four-year war. “When anything absurd, forlorn, or desperate was to be attempted, the Irish Brigade was called upon,” Civil War correspondent George Alfred Townsend noted. It’s a moot point to say that the Irish were not highly regarded as an immigrant group before the Civil War, but as Matthew Brennan, writing on the Irish Brigade in this issue, concludes, “With their bold courage they made a name that was carved so deeply into the American heart that there would never again be a question as to whether the Irish had the right to call themselves ‘Americans.’”

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The Irish continued to serve with distinction in America’s military, and have the proud record of holding more medal of honor citations than any other ethnic group. Which brings me to the thorny subject of immigration today. As the debate rages on about the undocumented, I find that my immigrant past plays a continuous influence on who I am. My loyalty is to America, but part of my history is colored by my experience as an immigrant, and my sympathy lies with the undocumented. Given a chance, I believe many of those undocumented Mexicans, Irish, and others would prove their loyalty if they were allowed to enlist in the U.S. Army as a path to eventual citizenship. America’s closed-door policy on immigration is also particularly troubling now as more and more young Irish people are forced to leave Ireland. We had hoped that immigration would skip a generation in my family, but not so. On Easter Monday, my niece Aoife left from the very same farm that I left years ago, except her journey will not end in New York, much as she would love to come here, but very far away in New Zealand. I have a dream that some hero will step up to the plate – someone of the ilk of Brian Donnelly or Bruce Morrison who were able to procure visas for the Irish in the past – to make a case for preference visas for Irish-born with family already here. Let’s say 200,000 visas (in honor of those 200,000 Irish-born who fought so gallantly and died for the United States of America) extended over a four-year Civil War commemorative period. Yes, I know that would be showing favoritism, but given the disproportionate contribution that the Irish have made to America, I think it would be appropriate. (In 2009, of over a million green cards issued only 1,637, went to the Irish). Australia and Canada are already seeing the benefits of the influx of Ireland’s young, highly educated workers. And as in the past, America would benefit if it were to open the door just a crack, and let some more of our people in.

Assistant Editor: Sheila Langan Copy Editor: John Anderson Advertising & Events Coordinator: Tara Dougherty Ad Design & Production Genevieve McCarthy Director of Special Projects: Turlough McConnell Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Writers: Kristin Romano Katie McFadden

IRISH AMERICA 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 210 New York NY 10001 TEL: 212-725-2993 FAX: 212-244-3344

Subscriptions: 1-800-582-6642 E-MAIL: irishamag@aol.com http://www.irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine ISSN 08844240) © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. Editorial office: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 210, New York, NY 10001. Telephone:212 7252993. Fax: 212-244-3344 E-mail: Irishamag@ aol.com. Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries: 1-800-5826642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 150. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 080995277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.


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readers forum THE VATICAN’S MISGUIDED INVESTIGATION I am so spitting mad about this, I can hardly type!!! Investigating nuns!! It is beyond belief that the church would waste its time and money on this when it should be cleaning up the pedophile priest mess. Comment posted online by Ellenfromcork Photo: Sister Shawn Marie McDermott teaches 5th grade at St. Agnes School in Sugar Creek Township, Northwestern Vigo County, Indiana.

“What’s the Story with the Nuns?” (April/May issue). I say, What’s the Story with the Priests? With the record of the men in skirts, I can’t believe they [the Vatican] are investigating the good sisters – they have a concern about “a certain feminist spirit.” Wow, I’m speechless. Aren’t there enough problems in the Church today without this misguided investigation? Joan Kapp Kreuser Green Bay, Wisconsin [“What’s the Story with the Nuns?” by Mary Pat Kelly] is very well done. Thank you! The nuns taught generations of us that it was worth the effort to try to improve the secular world we live in by advocating equality, for example. But then the hierarchy disparaged those efforts and turned the word “feminist” into an insult and a cause for suspicion. The investigations can never lessen the influence of the nuns on the lives of so many. What a waste of time and money the Archbishop is accomplishing!

Sad more than angry but I believe that this was brought about because so many religious women have kicked their habits and their traditional ministries for heaven knows what. Where there are vocations, they have gone to relatively speaking new orders who have retained a habit as well as prayers in common and are in the teaching ministry in Catholic schools. Comment posted online by Joan1954

LESSONS ABOUT COMMODORE BARRY [“His Brothers Keeper: Commodore Barry, Father of the American Navy” by Tim McGrath] Marvelous article and story. I went to school in Wexford. You taught me more in 15 minutes than [I learned] in my entire school career about Commodore Barry – thank you very much. Comment posted online by Oisinoc

Maybe the archbishop is finally looking into the sale of babies to America, taken from the arms of screaming young girls because they were unmarried. Or maybe he is looking into the institutions where the young girls were kept like slaves. There were definitely some great and good Orders of nuns and still are, but places like the Magdalene homes and others have to be brought to justice just like the priests. No use trying to sweep these incidents under the carpet either. Comment posted online by Mamaginnty

I was raised by Mother Cabrini nuns and had a very unhappy childhood.

Comment posted online by Eiriamach

Comment posted online by Dipperloop

Should be part of the general teaching curriculum. Comment posted online by Suivness

Good article, well written. From the days when ships were made of wood and men were made of steel. Comment posted online by Monsoonman

WHAT ARE YOU LIKE? Congratulations on the perfect headliner for a series on eminent Irish and Irish American figures. Paddy Moloney, through The Chieftains, has forged a musical bond for a people to their home and heritage. Comment posted online by CasualMBA

The Man Who Runs the Parade

YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE

I’ve known John Dunleavy for a number of years. He was my boss and I still see him in the neighborhood from time to time. I think John was being humble if he told you he was only a dispatcher for transit. In fact he at various times was a manager responsible for running different transit garages. The John Dunleavy I know is a real gentlemen and was a very compassionate boss who treated everyone with respect and dignity. It’s no wonder he is so passionate about the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

I can’t wait to read You Know When All the Men Are Gone [by Siobhan Fallon]. Tom Deignan did a fine job interviewing Siobhan!

Comment posted online by Bob R. March 8 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

Comment posted online by Ryansdaughter6

Write to us Send a fax (212-244-3344), e-mail (irishamag@aol.com) or mail (Letters, Irish America Magazine, 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001). Letters should include the writer’s full name and address and phone number and may be edited for clarity and space.


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{ hibernia }

PEOPLE

| HERITAGE | EVENTS | ARTS | ENTERTAINMENT

A Month Full of State Visits to Ireland n May, Ireland will welcome an unprecedented number of important state visits. It was announced on March 4 that Queen Elizabeth II had accepted an invitation from President Mary McAleese and will be making a state visit to the Republic of Ireland for four days from May 17. This will be the first visit by a reigning British monarch since King George V (the Queen’s grandfather) visited in 1911, and will be the first visit of a British monarch in the history of the Republic of Ireland. Members of the Real IRA issued terror threats in response to the impending visit, but the overall sentiment has been that the Queen’s historic trip is a step in the right direction. On St. Patrick’s Day, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the White House and announced that they will also be going to Ireland at the end of May. President Obama plans to visit Moneygall in County Offaly, where his great-great-great-great-great grandfather came from. The visit will be part of the president’s European trip from May 23rd-28th, in which he will also be visiting England, Poland and France. – K.R.

I

O’TOOLE JOINS WALK OF FAME rish screen legend Peter O’Toole was awarded a coveted spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On April 30, he arrived at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater to make imprints of his hands and feet and inscribe his signature in the fresh cement. O’Toole, who was born in Connemara, Co. Galway, received his big break in 1962, when he played the title part in Lawrence of Arabia, one of the most memorable roles in the history of film. He has been nominated for an Academy Award eight times, for his work in films like The Lion in Winter, The Stuntman, and My Favorite Year, and received an Honorary Academy Award in 2003. He recently appeared in the television series The Tudors as Pope Paul III, and will narrate the soon to be released British film Eldorado. – S.L.

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POSSIBILITIES IN IRELAND n April 13, over 2000 people came together at Dublin’s Citywest Hotel for the 2011 Possibilities civic summit. Possibilities is the creation of three Irish non-profit organizations: Afri, Children in Crossfire and SpunOut. The goal of the summit was to inspire people of all ages to make their voices heard and to take action in changing the country and the planet for the better, emphasizing that positive change can come if people believe in it. Inspiration for this movement comes from Gandhi’s saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.’” The main speaker was the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan leader spoke on the subject of universal responsibility, explaining that it is everyone’s duty to take action and make changes. The Dalai Lama was invited by his friend Richard Moore, a Derry man who was blinded by a rubber bullet when he was 10, and then went on to find and befriend the British soldier who injured him. Other speakers and performers included former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson; singer Nóirín Ní Riain; and the Irish music group Kila. Together, these contributors brought an important message of hope to Ireland. – K.M.

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President Obama, Queen Elizabeth and First Lady Michelle Obama are set to be in Ireland around the same time.

IDEAS FOR JOBS uring his recent visit to New York,Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced an exciting new plan to involve the Irish Diaspora in creating much neeeded jobs in Ireland.The initiative, which will be overseen by the Irish agency for development, IDA Ireland, calls for any of the 80 million people of Irish descent around the world to invest in or create new business projects in Ireland.Those who plan successful ventures will be rewarded with 3,000 euros for each sustainable job they help create. For some, this inventive plan will present a valuable opportunity to escape the frustration many have felt in watching Ireland face its current economic crisis from abroad. – S.L

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{news in brief} TREACY TOPS THEM ALL

NEW IRISH INVENTIONS

arah Burton, designer for Alexander McQueen, won the approval of fashion critics and viewers alike with the elegantly regal dress she designed for Catherine Middleton’s wedding to Prince William. But it was Philip Treacy, an Ahascragh, Galway native, who came out on top in terms of the headwear at the royal wedding. According to his personal statement, the renowned milliner grew up across the road from the village church, where he “loved to watch the weddings…the dresses people wore, I couldn’t believe them, they were incredible. It seemed so glamorous to see these creatures appear in these extraordinary clothes, as we didn’t have much glamour where I came from.” Things have certainly come full circle. Treacy designed custom hats for 36 of the wedding’s most high-profile guests, including Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Queen Anne-Marie of Greece; English socialite Tara Palmer Tomkinson; and Victoria Beckham. His creations ranged from the gravity defying and the geometric to the elegant and the risky – none more so than the bow-like beige piece he designed for Princess Beatrice, which has been the subject of much online attention and debate. Regardless, it’s safe to say that the big day was a triumph for Treacy. – S.L.

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his year, two revolutionary products share the title of Ireland’s Best Invention: a new device for treating lung cancer and a nano-technology microchip.The winning products were chosen in an award ceremony hosted by University College Cork on April 7. The Lung Laparoscopic Electroporation Electrode radically improves the treatment of lung cancer. Developed by Declan Soden and John Hinchion at the Cork Cancer Research Centre, the device allows for minimally invasive surgery, delivering an electrical field into tumor tissue and releasing a drug that kills cancerous cells. This groundbreaking medical tool will undergo trials at UCC and it has already sparked interest from the U.S. and Germany. The other top invention, developed by Dr. Scott Monaghan and Dr. Ian Povey of the Tyndall Institute in Cork, is a mini-microchip that will allow portable devices like cell phones to become even smaller. It also allows for highly improved transfer rates. – K.M.

RESPITE FROM RAIN BRINGS SEVERE WILDFIRES n a reversal of Ireland’s notoriously rainy climate, April was one of the driest, warmest months on record.The nation-wide average temperature was a total of 3oC warmer than usual for the time of year. County Kerry experienced the most dramatic difference, with Malin Head recording its highest temperatures for the month of April in more than 100 years. After some storms at the beginning of the month, there was no significant rainfall from the 13th on.While this was a nice respite from the typical April showers, the dry spell caused soil moisture levels to decrease and spurred on severe wild fires, which ripped through gorse and damaged thousands of acres of land in more than fifteen counties in the South and North. Forecasters anticipated that rainfall in May would help efforts by firefighters and Army troops to extinguish the blazes. – S.L..

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FOR ALL YOUR IRISH

NEWS ALL THE TIME VISIT

WHELAN AND GRAHAM INDUCTED INTO THE IMRO ACADEMY ill Whelan and Brendan Graham are the first members to be inducted into the newly formed IMRO Academy, newly created by the Irish Music Rights Organisation to celebrate songwriters and composers who have made a significant cultural impact in Ireland and the world. Whelan was honored as the composer of Riverdance, and Graham for his co-authorship of the popular song “You Raise Me Up.” Whelan and Graham are also among the founding members of IMRO and served on the first board starting back in 1995. The IMRO Academy will induct two members each year. “The whole notion of an Irish academy of writers and composers to me seems a very good idea,” said Whelan. “To be one of the first inductees is a real honour.” The two music masters were given oak and steel statuettes in the form of a musical clef crossed by a pencil at the induction ceremony in Dublin on April 4. After the ceremony, singer Brian Kennedy performed “The High Line,” a new song written by both Whelan and Graham while they were in New York at the same time. (See pg. 62 for a series of questions with Bill Whelan). – K.M.

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{hibernia}

Ireland’s New Taoiseach

On theWay Forward On his recent trip to New York, between visiting Ground Zero and being welcomed at an Irish American community reception, Ireland’s new Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, spoke with Patricia Harty about the changes taking place in the Irish government, the corporate tax rate, his thoughts on immigration, and a potential golf outing with President Obama. Until the recent election one party, Fianna Fáil, had been in power for fourteen years.What’s it like to lead a party change during such a tumultuous time? It’s been like a tornado really in the last eight weeks. The ending of the general election campaign, the formation of the new government, and unveiling the economic challenges that the country faces. Abraham Lincoln used to say, tell the people the truth and the country is in safe hands. I see a number of priorities. To unearth the scale of the economic challenge in [Ireland] has taken some time. No government in the history of our State faces the scale of the economic challenge that I face, and yet there has never been a time of better opportunity to deal with certain things that are wrong with our country, and that’s what we are about. So we want to set about demonstrating that we are serious – a new government with a different set of priorities – no messing here. We want to end the confusion and provide certainty. That’s why we have made decisive decisions about the banks. That’s why we are focusing investment in jobs as a priority. And that’s why we are dealing with a restoration of good health to our public finances. This is not easy. There are challenging times ahead for our people. But Irish people have always been pragmatic, and when they understand the scale of the challenge, they want and are willing to have a government leading them to sort these things out. 12 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

What decisions have you made about the banks? We had six dysfunctional banks. We went through a series of very strenuous stress tests, and the government decided to have two pillar banks, Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank. We are following that with a whole series of issues about governance of banks. Those who have been responsible before will remove themselves or be removed, and we will ask the people in a referendum to give us the authority, through parliamentary inquiry, to determine the facts of what actually happened in many of these cases. What about the thoughts of some global financial leaders that Ireland is going to default? I don’t accept that. The exchequer returns released yesterday for the end of April show that in the four major areas of tax – excise, VAT, corporate tax, and income tax – we are running $600 million ahead of target. That’s an indication of confidence. It is not the end result that we want, because we are locked into a bailout deal with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and EU (European Union), but within those constraints that’s an indication and a demonstration that we can meet our targets and that we will meet our targets. And I’ve made this point on so many occasions: we want less money from Europe but greater flexibility. And the big challenge for the government is to get to a

point where we can go back to those bond markets as a country and borrow money at less interest rates and wave goodbye to the IMF and be in charge of our economic destiny again. And that is a challenge that we will not shirk, that we will not turn our backs on. Do you think you will be able to hold on to the low corporate tax rate? Yes, I do. This is a matter of national competence. When President Sarkozy was president of the council before the second Lisbon referendum, he made it clear and it was added in as a declaration to that Treaty, that tax is a matter of national competence and that remains the case. Ireland will not be moving from its 12.5% percent corporate tax rate. We will play our part by other decisions in measuring up to our challenges in the European sense, and we have made that very clear to our European colleagues, with whom we have good working relationships and we will continue to do so in the future. Aside from political change, what do you think can be done to improve the national psyche right now? I think the fact that the people had their say in a general election and decimated the previous government was a lancing of that boil and that frustration. I think we have taken a series of decisions about reducing ministerial pay, about taking away state cars from people, about limiting the spending in elections, about put-


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{interview} ting an end to corporate donations. On the they were not able to agree, so it never after 9/11. When you stand on the bigger decisions where we are moving happened. I’ve got the opportunity as reviewing platform you see a very condecisively to deal with banks, our ecoTaoiseach to make a number of appointgested 16-acre site now because seven nomic problems and our job creation ments to the Senate in the next couple of buildings are actually under construction. programs – we are continuing our drive weeks and I’m going to give consideraIt’s hard to imagine the scale of the to ensure confidence by providing a jobs tion to that. slaughter and mayhem that occurred on initiative so that it is going to be easier for 9/11 when you see it in its current form. employers to take on new employees, to Will you be talking to politicians about the I know President Obama is going down remove obstacles by way of tax restricdifficulties of emigrating to the U.S.? there tomorrow [May5]. So, it’s a nostaltions on employment. Yes, and I want to follow through on gic time for American citizens, it’s also We are showing people that we are this. Obviously the changed situation “on not confined to New York because of the delivering on the mandate that they gave the Hill,” as they say in Washington, terrorist activities of Al Qaeda in Bali, to us. And that is the most encouraging means that you are not going to have and Madrid and London. Those people and the most confidence-building meascomprehensive immigration legislation in who lost loved ones, and we will reflect ure that we can take to influence the the near future. I do note the words of on that over the next days and I’m sure it national psyche. And in that sense, our President Obama himself, where he said will cause some very painful memories Irish diaspora, both in the States and that he would work with all organizafor people. Australia and around the world, are in tions, including Republicans, in respect constant contact with our country. Our of the immigration challenge. Now since Including a lot of Irish. exports have been running at a surplus for the death of Osama Bin Laden, obviously There were 12 who were born in the last 21 months. We have very many of the vigilance in terms of American borIreland who lost their lives and so many the global leaders [corporations] more Irish-America firemen and working in our country. So what Port Authority officers. I we are doing now is directing remember reading an account of our attention at stimulating our what happened on 9/11 at the indigenous economy. We have a Twin Towers, and I remember very high savings ratio – people someone describing the courage were afraid to spend money on the faces of the young men because they saw no certainty going to rescue those who were for the future. We are going to trapped, and it wasn’t the provide that certainty and courage on their faces coming encouragement for people to get down, it was the courage on their back spending. There’s great faces going up into those burnvalue now for construction, for ing towers. tourism or for investment. So while it is a challenging time, it Are you looking forward to is also a brilliant opportunity to President Obama’s visit to change the structure of the way PHOTO: MARGARET PURCELL RODDY Ireland? Taoiseach Enda government actually delivers for its peoders will increase. And I think, Kenny at Absolutely, I think it’s a brilple and the way it supervises the effecperhaps out of this, might come a Ground Zero on liant opportunity. I’m so glad May 4th, with tiveness of public monies being spent for renewed reflection on the way Port Authority that the President has confirmed the provision of services – get on and both Republicans and Democrats, Police Officer that he is coming, along with his demonstrate that we are lean, efficient whom I can’t speak for, obviously, Colman O’Reilly. First Lady. We will give them a and forward thinking. So through this will look at the question of comreal Irish welcome. They will austerity program – through the end of it prehensive immigration. If that’s not to be be very, very welcome visitors to Ireland. – I see the sun on the far shore and better the case, Ireland will pursue and continue His visit will follow, in such a short time, times ahead. to pursue, the well-being of our Irish diasHer Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s visit to pora here through the E3 Visa situation, Ireland. It’s a brilliant opportunity for You mentioned, at one point, the idea of which provides some degree of certainty Ireland. And I must say, having met with a senator who would represent those for those who are here, with an opportuhim in the White House, and him having who have emigrated from Ireland. Is that nity to renew visas. And I’m going to see been so generous with his time, I really do something you would consider? to it that we continue to work with look forward to it. My one [wish] – and I think the fact that we have such an Democrats and Republicans on the Hill in I’m not sure if it’s going to happen or not enlightened diaspora – on the last occathat regard. – but I did challenge him to a game of sion that my party tried to do this, one of golf. It all depends on his schedule if he our senators was willing to give up his You just came from Ground Zero.Why has time to play, and if not this time, the seat in the Senate providing that the diasdid you feel it was important to go there next time. I’ll be practicing. pora organizations were able to agree on and what were your impressions? IA a nominated candidate. Unfortunately, It’s a very different site, obviously, than Taoiseach, thank you so much. JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 13


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{ irish eye on hollywood} By Tom Deignan

Carlow actress Saoirse Ronan apparently enjoys playing a killer. In April, Ronan starred in the action flick Hanna, which should be out on DVD soon. Ronan played a teenaged assassin raised by her dad (Eric Bana) to be a ruthless killer. Now comes word that Ronan – who shot to fame in 2007, at the age of 13, with her Oscar-nominated role in Atonement – will play another killer in an independent movie entitled Violet & Daisy. Set to be directed by Geoffrey Fletcher (who nabbed an Oscar himself for writing the screenplay for Precious), Violet & Daisy takes a look at two girls who are young, pretty and deadly. Gilmore Girls actress Alexis Bledel will play Violet to Ronan’s Daisy. Domhnall Ronan recently told Entertain- Gleeson as Bill ment Weekly: “I was worried for Weasley in [Fletcher] to have an actor who had Harry Potter. just done a film where I am a killer. But you’ll see when Violet & Daisy comes out, the characters couldn’t be more different [from Hanna].” She adds: “Daisy is a really, really sweet girl. She’s not a natural killer like Violet is. Violet is a bit messed up, and she’s quite tough on the outside. Daisy’s the one who keeps them together and keeps everything intact.” Ronan added that while she hopes to re-team with Lovely Bones director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) for his highly anticipated The Hobbit, nothing is set in stone just yet. “I’d love to be in it. Pete and I want to work together again. It’s something that hopefully we’ll work out.” May 27 is currently the release date for the highly anticipated Sean Penn-Brad Pitt flick Tree of Life, also featuring Irish actress Fiona Shaw. Directed by the reclusive Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven), the film explores several generations of a Texas family with many buried secrets. 14 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

The recent Tribeca film festival was very much a family affair for the Gleeson clan. No fewer than three members of the acclaimed Irish family of thespians were featured at the fest, which ran from April 20 to May 1 in downtown Manhattan, and gave Irish movie lovers a slew of cinematic offerings to look forward to. First there was the much-discussed The Guard, featuring Brendan Gleeson, alongside Don Cheadle. Set in Galway, Gleeson plays Gerry Boyle, a cop with a dark side. Just how dark becomes an important question, however, when a corpse turns up, followed by a straight-laced American FBI agent with a lot of questions about the corpse, a drug ring and how things generally operate in the west of Ireland. Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, The Guard has generated strong buzz on the festival circuit and is currently set to open in the U.S on July 29. Gleeson plays another cop, alongside his real-life son, Brian Gleeson, in the Tribeca short film Noreen. Noreen

also happens to have been directed by Brendan’s other son, Domhnall Gleeson. Noreen follows the misadventures of

two Irish cops who stumble upon a body during what they’d assumed to be a routine call. Things go awry very quickly, which is not surprising since the film’s promotional material flatly dubs both of these characters “idiots.” Domhnall, incidentally, is making quite a name for himself on both sides of the camera these days. He had a role in the highly acclaimed Coen brothers flick True Grit, as well as Never Let Me Go with Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. He will also appear, alongside Irish lass Evanna Lynch, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which hits theaters July 15. Finally, and most ambitiously, Domhnall is set to appear in a film version of At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O’Brien’s challenging novel, to be directed by Brendan Gleeson. That project is still in the early stages of development, and rumor has it a host of Irish cinematic stars are vying for roles. Another second-generation Irish film star featured at Tribeca this year was Kate O’Toole – daughter of legendary Connemara native Peter O’Toole. Kate O’Toole is among the stars of The Hideaways, an Irish/French/Swedish co-production. Also known as The Last Furlong, and written by Nick Murphy, The Hideaways also features Irish actress Susan Lynch, and takes a dark look at three generations of men from a single family. Young James comes from a line of men blessed – or, more likely, cursed – with supernatural abilities, which include the ability to switch off the electricity in any given area, as well


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as going temporarily blind whenever thoughts turn to a sexual nature. James is trying to figure out what sort of ability he will inherit, until he encounters a cancer patient who has run away from a hospital. This inevitably forces James to rethink his curses – or blessings.

For now, Branagh has no movies on his radar. Instead, he will be returning to Sweden to film a third season of his acclaimed detective series Wallander, which has proven to be a hit among the Masterpiece Theatre set. Another Irish actor dabbling in comic book movies these days is Michael Above: Michael Fassbender. Born in Germany but raised Fassbender as in Kerry by his Antrim-born mother, Magneto. Left: The Fassbender will star in what is being young stars of The Hideaways. dubbed as a prequel to the X-Men movies. He is set to play Magneto in X-Men: First Class, directed by Matthew Vaughn. Fassbender will stay on the sci-fi action beat for his next movie, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, which is currently shooting.

Also at Tribeca, Dublin-born filmmaker Alexandra McGuinness turned the camera on London’s young and feckless for her film Lotus Eaters. Alice, in the film, is a former model trying to maintain a living standard she grew accustomed to during her heady days on the runway. She dates Charlie, though neither of them seem mature or stable enough for any kind of commitment. The same can be said for a number of the well-dressed, hedonistic youths who populate this dark and revealing fable, which was shot in black and white. Other Irish-themed shorts at Tribeca include Dublin-based writer/director Thomas Hefferon’s Switch, as well as Pentecost, about a conflicted altar boy in 1970s Ireland written and directed by Peter McDonald, the veteran actor known for films such as The Damned United, I Went Down and Felicia’s Journey. And after all of this, the Tribeca fest was closed out by the latest romantic comedy from Brothers McMullen writer/director Ed Burns. Entitled The Newlyweds and starring Caitlin Fitzgerald, The Newlyweds is set in Tribeca itself, and looks at a newly-married couple hoping to survive their honeymoon. The film supposedly cost a mere $9,000 to make and is expected to be Kenneth Branagh solves released in theaters later this year. mysteries as What’s next for Belfast thespian Kenneth Branagh, now that his big budget comic book epic Thor has been released? After a summer spent promoting the film about the hammer-wielding Norse god, Branagh is set to return to his native Belfast and appear in a play entitled The Painkiller, by Rob Brydon, at the Lyric Theatre.

Inspector Kurt Wallander.

In October, Irish veterans Brian Dennehy and Anjelica Huston are among the big names slated to appear in The Big Year, set in 1998. Also starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin, this offbeat film will look at amateur ornithologists – bird watchers – who are expecting a magical year bursting with sightings of exotic species. That’s because the phenomenon known as El Niño has changed weather patterns so drastically that migratory patterns have been affected. Expect lots of quirky humor and awkward silences. Finally, Ciaran Hinds will star alongside Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson in the August thriller The Debt. The film follows three decades of spies and espionage, with a focus on a team of Mossad agents for Israel who hunted down Hinds confronts Mirren in The Debt.

Nazis in the 1960s. What they did to complete their mission, however, still haunts them, and they have yet to come to terms with their past by the 1990s, when the film unfolds. Hinds plays one of the agents in the present day, as does Helen Mirren, though given her agelessness, it’s surprising director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) didn’t manage to have Mirren play the same female agent in the IA 1960s as well as the 1990s.

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Enda, Irial and Ali Honored by Fund

ore than 1,200 guests gathered in a tent at Taoiseach Lincoln Center on May 5, for the American Enda Kenny, Ireland Fund New York Dinner Gala, the Muhammad Ali and Kieran largest of the 100 events held annually by The McLaughlin, Worldwide Ireland Funds. president and The dinner, chaired by Duncan Niederauer, CEO CEO of the of NYSE Euronext, exceeded its goal and raised $3 Worldwide funds. Inset: million: $2.65 million for charities across the island Ali’s of Ireland and a further $350,000 for Irish charities Muhammad wife, Yolanda in New York. "Lonnie" Ali. The evening’s special guest was the Prime Minister of Ireland, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Muhammad Ali was honored with the Fund’s Humanitarian Award for his contribution to charitable and educational causes through the Muhammad Ali Center, and in recognition of his ancestral links to Ennis in Co. Clare, Ireland. The Fund also honored Irial Finan, Executive Vice President

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16 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

of The Coca-Cola Company and President of the CocaCola Company’s Bottling Investments Group. The Co. Mayo-Born Taoiseach and Finan, who was born in Co. Roscommon, spoke eloquently about their personal and professional commitment to Ireland and both paid special tribute to Muhammad Ali. Indeed, the Taoiseach said he had particularly wanted to attend the event because Muhammad was a hero of his from childhood. But perhaps the real star of the evening was Yolanda “Lonnie” Ali, who spoke on behalf of her husband who is incapacitated with Parkinson’s disease. She talked about how proud Ali was of his Irish roots and about going with him in 2009 to Ennis, Co. Clare, the hometown of Ali’s great grandfather Abe O’Grady. “I can’t tell you how warm the people of Ireland where to Muhammad, he’ll never forget this, and I’ll never forget this, every individual in that town, even the infants turned out to greet him. They lined along the streets – there must have been one hundred thousand people there. It was something phenomenal. And of course, his Irish roots go way back and he’s very, very proud of them. And I know now that you all can take pride as well in his legacy, and in being somewhat apart of his pugilist abilities and the greatness that he has achieved in that arena. I’m sure that’s due to his Irish roots, I’ve met quite a few, and I say that with all humility, I’ve met so many Irish people who have come through the ranks as being a boxer and I know that’s where he gets it from – his Irish roots.” The bulk of the money raised at the dinner will go to charitable and non-profit organizations across the island of Ireland, while an additional $200,000 will be donated to the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan, which is a focal point for promoting Irish culture in all its forms. A further $150,000 is being donated to Irish Centers across New York City that cater for the those elder Irish who have fallen on IA hard times.


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The Pipe: Big Oil Meets Small Irish Town I

n 2005, Rossport was a small, peaceful costal village in Co. Mayo, Ireland. Risteard Ó Domhnaill was living there, on his uncle’s farm, and working as a camera man. Then Shell, the international oil company, came to town with plans to build a gas pipeline from the sea, through nearby Broadhaven Bay and the coastal land, to an onshore refinery. The problem was, nobody had exactly checked with

the people of Rossport to see if this was all right with them. Understandably, they had something to say about it. The controversy that ensued is carefully and artfully rendered in Risteard Ó Domhnaill’s 2010 documentary The Pipe, which was an Official Selection at the Toronto Film Festival and won the award for Best Documentary at the 2010 Galway Film Fleadh. Ó Domhnaill began filming the protests and the proceedings for news coverage. But, as he told me when we met at the New York premiere of The Pipe, he took issue with the way the media portrayed the people of Rossport as “lunatic activists” rather than people with a genuine cause and concern. He filmed everything: town meetings, confrontations between protestors and police, court proceedings. He interviewed the parish priest, politicians from the 70s who had been involved in creating the relevant legeslation; he traveled to Seattle to interview one of the world’s foremost pipeline experts; he 18 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

it’s not about Shell, it’s not about the politicians, it’s about the community.” He chose to focus on four particular townspeople who played prominent roles in the fight against Shell, but the camera can’t seem to stay away from Pat “The Chief” O’Donnell, a local fisherman. The most powerful and heart-breaking scene in the documentary comes when Pat, in his small fishing boat, confronts The Solitaire, one of the world’s largest pipe-laying vessels, knowing full well that he faces arrest, jail time, and that his boat will likely be impounded. It is this and other completely human moments that make The Pipe such a compelling, affecting documentary. The Pipe played in New York last month for one night at the IFC Center in Manhattan’s West Village, as part of its Stranger Than Fiction documentary series. The crowd that spilled out the door and down the block wasn’t like any I’d ever seen there before: it was filled with Irish emigrants and IrishAmericans who had come in from Woodlawn, from Sunnyside, from New Jersey to see the film. One of them was Kathleen Lowry, one of Pat O’Donnell’s six sisters, four of whom attended the screening that night. When her brother and his neighbors were battling Shell, she and her sisters had tried to spread the word here about the shocking injustice he was facing at the hands of a government more in support of Shell than its people. She got little response. When asked later on how she felt after watching The Pipe that night, she replied “It was very sad, very hard to watch him [Pat] in so much pain. It doesn’t change anything, it can’t at this point, but we do feel vindicated.” – Sheila Langan ______________________________ To learn more about The Pipe or to request a screening, visit www.thepipethefilm.com

Pat “The Chief” O’Donnell, pictured below, confronts The Solitaire in his fishing boat.

LEFT: Pat O’Donnell. ABOVE: Poster for The Pipe, with an image of Broadhaven Bay in the background.

doorstepped then-Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. He tried to talk with representartives from Shell, but they refused to participate unless they could have editorial control over the content. Then, with over 400 hours of footage to work with, Ó Domhnaill made the rather unconventional decision to focus on the most important but most frequently ignored party in the conflict: the community itself. “We had two stories,” he explained. “On the one hand we had the political, technical side of the story with politicians and experts discussing what was going on. And then, on the other hand, we had this beautiful, human local story, and we just couldn’t marry the two. So


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Citizen Artist

Robert Ballagh

The extraordinary life and work of Robert Ballagh is celebrated in a new book “Citizen Artist” by Ciaran Carty, the launch of which took place at the American Irish Historical Society in New York on April 24th. Fellow artist Brian O’Doherty gave the following appreciation.

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’ve often called Robert Ballagh the perfect Dubliner. He married the city, walked it, photographed it, painted it, and Dublin in turn – no mean city – has embraced him. He’s just done a portrait of James Joyce for U.C.D. If Joyce were around, he would have a lot of respect for another Dublin, Ballagh’s Dublin. For Bobby has populated the city What do I mean by that? He has painted everybody — politicians, artists, poets, musicians (Dublin is a great music town), architects, sportsmen, scientists. To be painted by Ballagh is an event. He negotiates the marriages of two minds — sitter and artist — with revelatory tact. He has left a record of Dublin at a certain era that is and will be an extraordinary window into the life of this city. Ballagh’s Dublin. Just down the road here is the Frick Collection. You can go in and see the Holbeins. Holbein tells you about every character in the court of Henry the Eighth. Anne Boleyn looks as if she just sat down yesterday. The great Ambassadors in the painting of that name are to me often more alive than the people looking at them. Holbein gives you eyes that see microscopically. Such intensity of perception makes the subject almost unreal. It’s as if an hallucination had been materialized. Why do I mention Holbein? Because – I’m not fooling – Ballagh’s technical gifts are just as perfect. With that hypervision, the unceasing appetite for perfection, every feature, every smooth cheek, every furrow and the light in every eye is posed and re-made. Vision become visionary, his sitter held in an intense, intimate grip. Robert is one of the few people of major visual arts gifts who didn’t leave. He showed it was possible to make a liv-

ing as an artist in Dublin. His reputation has gone far beyond city limits. He’s known and respected all over Europe. I respect Bobby for many things. Not just his art, his theater designs, his posters, book covers, his gifts as a designer. I marked him long ago, in 1970, when I saw his free translation of Delacroix’s

Liberty on the Barricades. Liberty. There’s no greater social conscience in Dublin, in Irish art and letters, than Bobby Ballagh. I call him Citizen Ballagh. Because he is a full citizen. He is not a political artist, but an artist who is intensely political. He is an active figure in his society, he has a voice, and he uses it. It is a voice that is respected in the troubled North, now precariously pacified. He has been vocal when government cowardice is on display. Those government officials seeking the ease and comfort of forgetfulness have been called to remembrance by Mr. Ballagh. He has been a leader for civil rights in the North. And for artists’ rights. He is an ethical man, whose values are often a rebuke to those without them. His

art and mine are very different. But we admire each other’s work. We offer each other that deepest of courtesies. Is Bobby admired by other artists? It’s always surprised me that this extraordinary artificer does not receive the praise from colleagues that he should. In the power Dublin literary community, Bobby is held in the highest regard. Why not in segments of the artistic and critical establishment? I’ve thought about that. Is there a kind of genteel holdover from our colonial days in parts of the Irish visual arts establishment? Bobby seeks no favors. His art speaks as frankly as he does. His art is seen as Pop. It’s not. It’s a kind of hyper realism secreted brushstroke by brushstroke by his temperament and character. Speaking of character. We know that the arts attract their quota of poseurs and esthetes. Bobby — and this was shared by his wonderful late wife, Betty — detests pretentiousness and artistic snobbery. His realism is a rebuke to all kinds of fakery social and otherwise. That doesn’t make you popular with the pretentious. He has lived a simple life as husband and father. If you want to know how a Dublin life — Ballagh’s life — was/is lived, look at the marvelous paintings of his domestic life. He is a realist in life and art. And when he turns his own eye on himself, the results — in a great series of, in my view, historical self-portraits — are uncompromising to the point of brutality. He gave himself no quarter. The self-portraits remind me of Messerschmidt’s great sculptures on human expression in Vienna. They are a confessional autobiography in paint. You can see them in the extraordinary book that is our reason for being here — a story of art and the life of Ballagh — that tells you more about this extraordinary man and artist I am proud IA to call, friend. JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 19


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Running for a Good Cause I n March, Dan McKenna, a 23-yearold runner of Irish descent, completed a 150-mile endurance footrace across the Atacama Desert of Chile. His motive for undertaking such a grueling task was selfless: raising funds for kids with cancer. McKenna, a global banking operations analyst at Morgan Stanley in New York,

ran the race to raise funds for St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Founded in 2000 by three Irish men, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research. McKenna has Irish roots himself: he is a third-generation Irish American with ancestors on his father’s side. His great-grandparents came from Co. Donegal and Co. Derry. The long-distance race, equivalent to running five and a half marathons, is done in six stages over the course of seven days. The Atacama Desert is the driest place on earth and each runner must carry his or her own gear, food and clothing, which weighs approximately 20 pounds. McKenna ran the first five stages in honor of five St. Baldrick’s Foundation kids. The last stage was for a friend’s mother who is also battling cancer. As one can imagine, the race was

ABOVE: Freshly shorn Dan McKenna at the annual St. Baldrick’s charity event. BELOW: McKenna and fellow racers braving the Atacama Desert heat.

no easy task. McKenna faced foot and ankle injuries along the way, but he trekked on, keeping his inspiration in mind. He completed the race on March 12 and surpassed his fundraising goal of $10,000. In McKenna’s blog about his journey, he stated, “This entire race has been a humbling experience.” Yearly St. Baldrick’s events are held around the country in which participants shave their head to raise money and awareness for the cause. A week after completing the Atacama race, McKenna had his own head shaved at an event in Rockville Center, New York, continuing his great contribution to the charity. – K.M.

Two Irish-American Businessmen Receive Fordham Founder’s Award

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t Fordham University’s 10th Annual Founder’s Award Dinner on March 28, 2011 at the Waldorf-Astoria, Irish-American businessmen James Flaherty and James J. Houlihan received the Founder’s Award. Established in 2002, the award is named after Fordham’s founder, Archbishop John Hughes, and honors “...individuals whose lives reflect the University’s defining traditions as an institution dedicated to wisdom and learning in the service of others.” Flaherty, a 1969 graduate of John Tognino, Chairman of Fordham University Board of Trustees; Jim Flaherty, Co-Honoree; Fordham College at Rose Hill James J. Houlihan, Co-Honoree; Fordham President Reverend Joseph M. McShane. (FCRH), is currently a Managing Partner of Cannon Capital, LLC.A chairman of the FCRH mother, uncles, brother and other family members also capital campaign, Flaherty has deep connections to Fordham: earned degrees from Fordham. An ardent humanitarian, two of his children and his son-in-law graduated from the Houlihan received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2000. university, and he has created two scholarships there. In addition to presenting the Founder’s Award, the dinner Houlihan is a 1974 graduate of the Gabelli School of raised $2,250,000 for the Fordham Presidential Scholar Business and Managing Partner of Houlihan-Parnes Realtors, program which provides academic merit scholarships. LLC. Like Flaherty, he has strong ties to the university. His – K.R.

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Strong Irish Presence Among 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards Nominees On March 21, 2011, the James Beard Foundation announced the finalists for the 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards. Irish and Irish-American nominees pepper both the Cookbook, Media, and Journalism Award nominees and the Chef and Restaurant Award honorees. Best Pastry Chef Nominee Patrick Fahy of Blackbird in Chicago, who was born on St. Patrick’s Day and whose great-great-grandfather was born in West Galway, says that the Irish influence in his cooking “came from my parents raising me to eat everything on the plate with no exceptions. Most importantly, not getting dessert until the plate is clean…I am open to any preparation of food, and of course, I just can’t wait to have dessert!”

Nominated in the Food-related Columns category for her Wall Street Journal On Wine blog articles “Why I Hate Ordering Wine by the Glass,” “Are the Wines in First Class Truly First-Rate?” and “Wines that Pack a Little Extra Kick,” Lettie Teague is “proudly ‘three quarters’ Irish” with maternal heritage in County Cork. She developed her love of wine while living in Dublin and attending Trinity College during her junior year of college.

Dublin native Cathal Armstrong, chef and co-owner of Restaurant Eve in Old Town, Alexandria, VA (Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic Nominee) “knits together his Irish upbringing, his French training, and his grasp of the American culinary moment” in his cooking. A proponent of the farm-to-table movement, Armstrong grew up in a family that grew its own fruits and vegetables, a rarity in the Dublin of his childhood. In April, Armstrong, who is fluent in Irish, was faced with the challenge of creating a contemporary Celtic feast for the 500 historians, scholars, explorers and celebrities who attended the Archaeologist Institution of America’s annual gala, which concentrated on Ireland this year. Using only ingredients that would have been found in 4th century Ireland, such as honey, mead, mutton, mackerel, barley and root vegetables – and no potatoes – Armstrong prepared a delicious meal with a creative twist on the oldest traditions.

rish-Canadians Declan O’Driscoll and Kevin O’Keefe are Iducing nominated in the Television Special/Documentary category for proMilk War, a Canadian documentary chronicling one man’s fight against the government to distribute raw (unpasteurized) milk. O’Keefe is descended from Patty O’Keefe, a Waterford/Wexford area man who fought in the United Irish Rebellion and left for Canada in 1798. O’Driscoll is the son of the late author Robert O’Driscoll and the Tuam, Co. Galway-born author Treasa (Hardiman) O’Driscoll. ther nominees include fourth-generation Irish-American Chef O Bobby Flay in the TV Food Personality/Host category for his Cooking Channel Show Brunch at Bobby’s; Chef /Owner Barbara Lynch’s Boston restaurant Menton was nominated in the Best New Restaurant category; Chef Curtis Duffy of Chicago’s Avenues at the Peninsula in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category; and Chef Thomas McNaughton, owner and executive chef of San Francisco’s Flour + Water, in the Rising Star category. he winners of the 2011 Cookbook, Media, and Journalism Awards T will be announced in New York on May 6, 2011 in a ceremony hosted by Ted Allen and Gail Simmons. On May 9, 2011, the 2011 Chef and Restaurant Awards will be announced in New York in a ceremony hosted by Tom Colicchio, Traci Des Jardins and Ming Tsai. As we go to press, we wish all the nominees good luck! – Kristin Romano

Chef Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, a Best Chef: South Nominee, is committed to using only the freshest ingredients, telling Irish America that “Our Irish traditions were focused around the kitchen, and farmto-table eating. Our family had huge gardens that produced breathtaking supplies of fresh vegetables, and fruit through most of the year.” JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 21


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Celebrating the 2011 Hall of Fame Irish America magazine’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony held on March 15th at the New York Yacht Club, co-hosted by the Dunbrody Famine Ship, celebrated the nine 2011 Hall of Fame inductees and honored Dr. John Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University, as Irish American of the Year. The honorees spoke of their love of Ireland and their pride in their Irish roots. Dr. Lahey was humble in his acceptance of the title of Irish American of the Year, and rededicated himself to keeping the memory of Ireland’s Great Hunger alive through Quinnipiac’s great collection of art and literature. Other highlights of the gala occasion included a welcome address by Joe Byrne, Executive Vice President of Tourism Ireland in North America; Sean Reidy’s description of the Dunbrody Interpretative Center; and words from Consul General Noel Kilkenny. Called upon with little notice when President Clinton was delayed, Kilkenny delivered a moving, impromptu speech that showed his knowledge and appreciation of the relationship between Ireland and Irish America. President Bill Clinton, who was introduced by U.S. Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland Declan Kelly, talked about the economic crisis in Ireland and why we need to keep our heads straight on while we are recovering. Here are some highlights from President Clinton’s speech: ost of us go back to Ireland and feel immediately at home in a way that’s impossible to describe. Most of us feel an inexpressible pride, not only in our roots, but in the fact of the peace and the fact that, even amidst this horrible economic calamity, no one is talking about getting rid of it. I want to just take two minutes and say something really serious. The success and the endurance of the peace and the continued involvement of the Irish American community, not only in the North but with the Republic as well, brings with it both a staggering opportunity and a profound responsibility to help the Irish respond in this moment of economic calamity and social and psychological chaos. We just had an enormously profoundly upsetting election change in the deck chairs of the Irish political scene. And here’s what I think: number one, there’s an economic problem, but I also think that getting through the economic thicket requires us to deal with the profound damage to the Irish psyche done by this collapse. When I was a little boy, I heard stories about the Great Depression. I grew up in a state where the income was barely 50 percent of America’s average, so whatever was happening in the United States Great Depression, you could multiply by a factor of 50 percent in my native state. When President Roosevelt came to Arkansas to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the state [in 1936], one of these Works Progress projects distributed whitewash to people to paint their houses so when the president drove by on the route he would

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see, not that they were prosperous, but that the people were proud enough to have him there that they could at least make their houses white. Except there wasn’t enough whitewash so they only gave people enough to paint the fronts of their houses, but paint it they did and happy they were, and they endured. The thing that’s troubled me most about this whole economic crisis in Ireland has been the rise in the suicide rate, not just among the young, but…among people in their prime working years, who feel somehow their whole lives have been robbed from them…But it is not the end of the world. It is the beginning of another chapter in Irish history, and somehow we need to help our friends there, not just to recover, but to keep their heads on straight while they are recovering so they can think about what the real choices are before them. A

good friend of mine was one of the young, phenomenally prosperous Irishmen who took his life, and it made me think about this all over again. I thank you for this honor, I’d like to just make you laugh, but the impacted sense of shame from this economic crisis and the paralysis of it has put our beloved homeland in another fix. They have voted themselves to make a new beginning despite the political changes, but we should never assume again that any given level of prosperity is permanent, that any economic arrangement cannot be improved, and that any clever thing we knew may not be changed by a little arrogance. And we should remember that what we loved about Ireland was how green and beautiful it was and how beautiful the poetry and the prose are, and how wonderful the music and the dance is, and that is what we remember about life. I am convinced that if every one of us had 30 lucid minutes right before we passed away, we would spend almost none of it thinking about how cool it was when we got rich. We would think about who we liked and who we loved and how the flowers smelled in the springtime, and when we made the passage from youth to adulthood, and what it was like when our children were born or when we gave our daughters away at the altar. The thing we always loved about Ireland had almost nothing to do with whether it was financially successful or not. It was what it was at the core. Ireland will be great and prosperous and wonderful again, simply by recovering what it is at the core. So it is for us not only to give them good advice, and investment and support, but to scrape away the barnacles which have clouded the vision of the place we IA love. Thank you and God bless you.


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1. Catherine Conlon, Attracta Lyndon, President Clinton and Irish America team: Assistant Editor Sheila Langan, Advertising and Events Coordinator Tara Dougherty and Vice President of Marketing Kate Overbeck 2. Chairman Emeritus Mutual of America and HOF inductee William Flynn 3. President of the American Ireland Funds Loretta Brennan Glucksman and HOF inductee Dr. James Watson 4. Kieran O’Grady, Chairman of the Dunbrody Centre, Sean Reidy CEO of the Dunbrody Centre and President Bill Clinton 5. Hugo McDonald, U.S. Economic Envoy to N.I. Declan Kelly, Director of Development U.C.D Tony Condon and Secretary of State for N.I. Owen Paterson, MP 6. Irish America VP Special Projects Turlough McConnell, Quinnipiac Director of Communications Lynn Bushnell and Dave Aldrich 7. Consul General Noel Kilkenny, Niall O’Dowd and Hanora O’Dea Kilkenny 8. Irish American of the Year Dr. John Lahey and Editor Patricia Harty. Photos: Nuala Purcell and Sade Joseph JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 23


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1. Publisher Niall O’Dowd and Mary Higgins Clark, esteemed author and HOF inductee. 2. Dr. John Lahey presents President Clinton with a copy of Celebrating 250 Years of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, published by Quinnipiac University Press 3. Joe Byrne, Tourism Ireland's Executive Vice President North America. 4. Ciaran O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore, founders of the Irish Repertory Theater 5. Adrian Flannelly host of The Adrian Flannelly show and his wife, producer Aine Sheridan with New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. 6. Tiffany’s President James Quinn with editor Patricia Harty. 7. Wall Street Access 11 founder and HOF inductee Denis Kelleher 12 and his wife Carol. 8. Kieran McLoughlin, President of The American Ireland Fund and Paul Keary founder Paul Keary Consulting. 9. Brian Stack, President of CIE Tours North America. 10. Dancer extraordinaire and HOF inductee Michael Flatley with April Drew and her son Colum. 11. Ed Kenney, Mutual of America’s Executive Vice President of external affairs, Dara Burke Development Officer Concern Worldwide, Sandra Feeney-Charles Development Officer Concern Worldwide, and Dan LeSaffre, Human Resources Director at Mutual of America. 12. Dr. Kevin Cahill HOF inductee and renowned medical expert.

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Irish-American Writers Win Pulitzers in Many Categories

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he 2011 Pulitzer Prizes saw a slew of Irish American journalists and writers recognized for their contributions in various fields, from the investigative to the creative, from the international to the closer-to-home. The Pulitzer for poetry went to Kay Ryan for The Best of It: New and Selected Poems. Ryan, who was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2010, is known for her compact, concise, and witty poems, with internal rhymes. Reporter Kathleen Gallagher, along with four other members of a team for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shared the Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting. The team created a series called “One in a Billion,” in which they followed a four-year-old boy with a mysterious disease that repeatedly defied diagnosis, and a doctor’s attempt to diagnose and treat it through genetic sequencing. Ellen Barry, Moscow Bureau Chief for The New York Times, won for International Reporting with coworker Clifford Levy. The duo created a series of videos and articles called “Above the Law,” which examined the corruption and abuse of

power in Russia two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union. This is the first Pulitzer win for Barry, a threetime finalist for the award in different categories. Irish-American novelist Jennifer Egan was recognized for her highly acclaimed A Visit From the Goon Squad, which also received the National Book Critics Circle award earlier this year. Mike Keefe of the Denver Post won the prize for editorial cartooning, much deserved after a 30-year career full of insightful, funny cartoons. Amy Ellis Nutt’s 20page special feature in Newark, N.J.’s Star Ledger earned her the award for Feature Writing. The extraordinary piece, “The Wreck of the Lady Mary,” explored the 2009 sinking of a fishing boat off the Cape May coast of New Jersey, which only one of the seven crew members survived. Nutt spent over seven months researching the wreck, which had previously received scant news coverage. The feature was also turned into a 24minute documentary. Nutt released her first non-fiction book, Shadows Bright as Glass, on April 5, 2011. – S.L. and K.M.

An Evening with Edna O’Brien

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ans of the prolific Irish writer Edna O’Brien, author of the groundbreaking Country Girls Trilogy, the short story collection Lantern Slides and myriad other novels and short stories, are in for a treat on May 25th. On tour for her recently published collection of short stories, Saints and Sinners (see pg. 50 to read “The Green Georgette”), O’Brien will be at Manhattan’s Symphony Space for an evening of performances of her new work – her first collection in ten years. O’Brien will be joined by Gabriel Byrne, Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), and Irish actress Eilin O’Dea, among others – a fitting celebration of O’Brien’s incredible writing. O’Brien will also read at Glucksman Ireland House on May 31 and make appearances in Boston and Washington, D.C. – S.L.

Ellis Island Medal of Honor Recipients

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ver seventy Americans from different ethnic groups were awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor at the 25th anniversary gala hosted by the National Ethnic Coalition on Ellis Island on May 7. The medal, which ranks among the nation’s most prestigious awards, is given to outstanding citizens who have distinguished themselves through their contributions to the country. The dozen or so Irish Americans on this year’s roster included such luminaries as Cherish the Ladies founder and leader Joanie Madden; Captain Linda L. Fagan, USCG; businessman Denis O’Brien; and Jerry Cahill (pictured above), the director for education of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which supports cystic fibrosis research and outreach. Cahill suffers from cystic fibrosis, but he doesn’t let the disease define him. Diagnosed at age 10, he was not expected to live past 16. Today, at 54 years old, he is living an active life (he is a nationally ranked pole-vaulter and a two-time NYC marathon runner) and through the Boomer Esiason Foundation has started many programs geared towards CF student athletes. He strives to be a role model and provide hope to CF patients by sharing his story around the country. – K.M JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 25


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Boston College Houses Northern Ireland Decommissioning Papers

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n archive of documents that mark a crucial step in the quest for peace in Northern Ireland has found a new home at Boston College. The documents, provided by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), chronicle the decommissioning of Northern Ireland’s paramilitary groups after “The

verify that the Provisional Irish Republican Army, Loyalist Volunteer Force, Ulster Volunteer Force, Ulster Defense Association and other paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland destroyed their weapons, including various guns and explosives. With the approval of the Irish Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Peterson, and Director of the Northern Ireland Office Hilary Jackson, the papers were donated to the Special Collections of Boston College’s John J. Burns Library. They include commission deliberations as well as personal notebooks of IICD members. Boston College was chosen as a less controversial alternaLeft to Right: BC Center for Irish Programs Executive Director tive to schools in Dublin or Thomas Hachey, IICD cabinet chief Aaro Suonio, Brigadier General Belfast, which were in heavy Tauno Nieminen, and Burns Librarian Robert O’Neil competition over the archives. Troubles,” a period of three decades of The Burns Library is home to many other sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. collections relating to Northern Ireland As the 1998 Good Friday Agreement including the Center for Irish Programs’ was put into effect, the IICD worked to oral history archive of IRA and UVF vol-

unteers and private papers of various Northern Irish poets and writers. History professor and executive director of the Boston College Center for Irish Programs, Thomas Hachey was able to secure the archive while working closely with Sean Aylward, secretary general of Ireland’s Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Hachey considers the documents to be extremely valuable to studies of “The Troubles.” “The archive will reveal the subtle nuances in the recorded deliberations that reflect the personal dispositions, reasoning and strategic maneuvers of the various participants during the negotiations,” Hachey said. Although the documents are being kept at Boston College, it is not clear when they will be available for study. Under British and Irish law, an embargo could prevent the archive from being accessible for up to 30 years, but reviews will be carried out in hopes that earlier access will be granted by authorities. The collection is intended to be digitized and eventually made available online for scholars. – K.M.

Virtual Ireland at Queens University

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ueens University Belfast recently launched Documenting Ireland – Parliament, People and Migration, a virtual library documenting the history of modern Ireland. Open to the public, the virtual library is comprised of three searchable databases: Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers of Ireland, Irish Emigration Database and Voices of Migration and Return. With over 15,000 documents covering Ireland and Irish affairs, Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers of Ireland is one of the few complete sets of Parliamentary papers available to the public and documents the relations between Ireland and Great Britain from 1801-1922. The Irish Emigration Database contains over 33,000 newspaper archives, wills, stories, songs, music, diaries, letters, and more, collected from across Ireland and the Diaspora. The dates of the documents extend from 1196 to 1950, with over 75% of the materials

26 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

from the heavy immigration period of 1820-1920. The oral history archive, Voices of Migration and Return, holds stories of immigration from the 1930s through the 2000s, with an emphasis on the 1970s emigrant experience. The interviewees, ages 32 to 85 at the time of the interviews, came from all across Ulster, from different social classes and religious groups. Though more scholarly than accessi, Virtual Ireland holds some real treasures for those who take the time to sift through the materials. One fragment of an incomplete letter from a woman named Sally reads almost like a poem of distance: “Am sending much love and in hoping you will come over. We are having some stormy weather now – have inherited the N.Orleans rains I suppose. Write to me any way to let me know when to think of you as on the sea.” Visit this wonderful new resource at http://www.dippam.ac.uk. – S.L. and K.R.


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Who Do We Think We Are? G

lucksman Ireland House’s second annual University Day, entitled “Who Do We Think We Are?,” took place on April 16th and was by all reports a rousing hit. Noted Irish author Colm Toibin opened the day to a full house with some reflections on the Irish family, and read a most affecting story of a younger man’s emotions as he struggles with the physical and mental decline of the aunt who raised him. There was utter silence as he read, and an intake of breath as he choked up mid-sentence. It was a wonderful, moving beginning to a day that spoke to emotions not openly expressed in Irish and Irish-American families. Next came keynote speaker Dr. Garrett O’Connor, CEO of the Betty Ford Institute, who addressed an overflowing crowd on the role of colonial occupation and oppression in the development of what he terms “malignant shame” and its role, in turn, in the disease of alcohol addiction in Irish and Irish-American families. Many of the audience were moved to tears by O’Connor’s presentation, delivered with a mix of wry humor and personal revelations, including his own struggle with alcohol. As Aine Carrol, one of the attendees remarked, “Dr. O’Connor totally blew me away with his raw honesty and humility. To me, that is the real meaning of humble, to admit you have been wrong, but yet to try to learn from that and help others from it.” Marion Casey, Linda Almeida and Miriam Nihan of the Oral History Project at GIH played most moving excerpts of oral histories. Pete Hamill and Peter Quinn then recalled their own experiences of growing up in Irish-American families and related, with their characteristic humor and insight, observations of how those influences shaped their lives. Finally, Patricia Harty interviewed Fionnula Flanagan, noted actress who appeared in Some Mother’s Son and Waking Ned Devine, among many other stage and film credits, and is the wife of Dr. Garrett O’Connor, the keynote speaker. Patricia skillfully prompted Fionnula to regale us with memories of a long, successful and still active career; and most particularly her role in Some Mother’s Son. Deputy Consul General in New York, Jackie O’Halloran Bernstein, eloquently wrapped up the day with an incisive summary of the programs, and a humorous comment about her Argentinean Jewish husband practicing psychiatry in Ireland and his observations about peculiarities of the Irish family. – Judith McGuire

CCE Celebrates 60 Years

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undreds of devoted Irish music and dance fans descended upon San Antonio for the annual Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann North American Convention on the weekend of March 25th. The annual event, held in different cities around the U.S., was extra special this year, as it was also a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the organization’s founding in Ireland in 1951. Today, there are over 600 CCE branches around the world – 44 in North America and Canada – all of them committed to the practice and preservation of Irish traditional music, dance and language. Helen Gallon, the Limerick-born chairperson of CCE North America, declared the San Antonio weekend a resounding success. “It was the first time that we went that far south with our conventions and [San Antonio] is our newest branch, so it was a celebration of the branch’s founding as well as the North American convention and the 60th anniversary,” she told Irish LEFT: Traditional musicians performing at one of many sessions held at the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann North American Convention. BELOW: CCE members arrive for the festivities in San Antonio, Texas

America, speaking by phone from her home in St. Louis. “We actually had some people drive all the way down from Canada to Texas, and musicians from all over the country, including such big names as Larry Reynolds, Joanie Madden, Joe Furlong and Margie Mulvehill and others, and about 600 people in attendance at our banquet.” Gannon does a lot of traveling in her role as CCE’s chairperson: she was just back from Ireland when we spoke in early May. She and other Comhaltas members from around the world had gathered in Tullamore, Co. Offally, for Comhaltas Ireland’s 60th Anniversary celebrations with entertainment that included all-Ireland accordion and fiddle champions going back all the way to the 1950s. Barely home, she was just about to hop on a plane to Atlanta to hand out scholarships to musicians. She explained: “There are 299 feiseanna every weekend in the year in North America and we realized a few years ago that we were hurting for musicians that could play for this highprofile dancing, so we established a scholarship for musicians to come and play and see if they can keep time to the dancers. And it’s working. The feises are now vying for these competitions.” Next up for Helen and CCE: working out the logistics of the Comhaltas concert tour of North America in October. For more on Comhaltas see: www.ccenorthamerica.org – Patricia Harty JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 27


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Quote Unquote

“Now the president has shown he can lead straight-on and that, unlike Jimmy Carter, he knows how to order up that all-important backup helicopter. He has said that those who call him a wimp are mistaken, that there is often muscular purpose beneath his diffident surface.” – Maureen Dowd in her New York Times Op-Ed following the Death of Osama bin Laden

“How did we become friends? You know, the old story of boy meets girl and boy pesters girl with too many phone calls at inappropriate hours of the night. I was just lucky enough to become her friend in the last year and a half. I adore her ... still. I just miss her; I just miss her; I just miss her.” – Colin Farrell on his friendship with Elizabeth Taylor, in an Interview with Access Hollywood

“I felt like, OK, we’ve talked about it for so long, we’ve been asked a thousand times, ‘What’s the ending going to be like?’ And then when the end came I really was sad…We go out into the last battle and it’s just so symbolic. I did cry, I cried on the last day. It was epic.” – Evanna Lynch, speaking to MTV about wrapping up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II, the final installment in the series

“This is an important religious and civic event and a mark of the mutual respect that exists between our two countries. It demonstrates the bonds of friendship between the Church of Ireland and the Catholic Church in Ireland.” – Cardinal Sean Brady on being invited to the Royal Wedding. From IrishCentral.com

“Bill Hammond doesn’t think the Irish potato Famine is a worthwhile subject matter for the children of New York.” – Damian McShane on Hammond’s column in the Daily News in which Hammond cited “questionable mandates”such as requiring schools to teach about the Irish Famine. 28 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

“I’m really just looking at the positives. Obviously, when you travel like that, you have a lot of time to reflect. I led that golf tournament for 63 holes. Everyone is going to have bad days. Mine just happened to be on the most important day of my golfing career. But I’m a very positive person and I know I’ll get over it. I know I’ll learn from it. When I get myself back in that position if I have really learned from it, it won’t happen again.” – Rory McIllroy, Irish Times.


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of Ireland Have you heard about the food revolution sweeping across Ireland? There are all sorts of people changing the culinary landscape of the country with their wonderful produce, tempting recipes and joyous celebration of all that is good about Irish food. Sharon Ní Chonchúir reports. We Irish have had a fraught relationship with food for far too long. Generations were raised to see it as a crime to leave even the tiniest morsel on our plates. Instead of being encouraged to develop a taste for good food, we were told to consider ourselves lucky to have any food at all. Is this a legacy of our past? For centuries, British landlords exported the finest Irish meats, butters and grains abroad and we subsisted on the leftovers, which amounted to little more than potatoes. When the blight struck and those potatoes failed, millions suffered in the resulting famine. From then on, we learned that what matters is not the quality of the food you eat but that you have any food to eat in the first place. Thanks to the people introduced in these pages and many others like them, this is finally changing. We are learning to appreciate our food producers who make farmhouse cheeses and butters, cure meat, smoke fish and harvest vegetables that are among the best in the world. We are beginning to take pride in Irish food.

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onal Skehan is Ireland’s answer to Jamie Oliver. This self-taught cook shares Jamie’s passion for homecooked food and through his food blog, cookbooks and soon-to-be-launched TV series, he is inspiring Irish people to follow his example. “I believe everyone can learn how to cook,” says Donal. “Here in Ireland we have such wonderful produce. We should be proud of it and, even more importantly, we should make good use of it.” Twenty-five-year-old Donal was raised in

Donal Skehan is Ireland’s answer to Jamie Oliver.


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Peter Ward set up Country Choice in Nenagh, County Tipperary.

what he calls “a foodie family” in Howth, County Dublin. His parents ran a fruit and vegetable business, where he helped out from a young age. Members of his extended family also had an interest in food. His grandmother was renowned for her baking. Two uncles trained at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and his aunt Erica Ryan is one of Ireland’s best-known food stylists. It wasn’t long before Donal took an interest in food too. “I remember the thrill of flipping my first pancakes,” he says. “Pancakes and cakes were what I made as a child but when I hit my teens, I took over my mum’s side of the kitchen and started making hearty home-cooked food.” This is the type of food he continues to make today and it’s what you’ll find on the blog he started in 2007. Chicken hotpot, roast garlic shepherd’s pie and rhubarb crumble are some of the dishes you’ll find at www.donalskehan.com. The popularity of his blog earned Donal a book deal. His first book got great reviews. He has just released his second – Kitchen Hero – and he is about to launch his TV show of the same name. He thinks his success is due to the simplicity of his cooking. “People can be intimidated by books written by chefs,” he says. “My food is simple. It’s the type of food you can throw together at the end of a long day’s work.” Although it may sound as though he was destined for a career in food, Donal first ventured into the world of music. He even had two Irish number one hits with his band ‘Industry.’ “Music and food were my main interests and I always knew I would pursue one or the other,” he laughs. “I grabbed the chance to sing when it came along but I knew my singing wasn’t as good as my cooking. I’d eventually come back to food.” He continued to blog while touring with his band and four years later, he couldn’t be more thrilled to be involved in the Irish food scene. “Irish food is incredibly inspiring at the moment,” he says. “The snobbery has gone and now we value what we have. Chefs are cooking with local, seasonal produce. We are going back to the

roots of Irish food.” Through his collaboration with Bórd Bia (the Irish Food Board), Donal has discovered that there is also a growing interest in Irish food abroad. “I cooked a dish of Cashel Blue cheese and black pudding for 700 people in Paris in March,” says Donal. “They lapped it up. For the French, who are so informed about food, to be that interested in Irish food says a lot. It shows we really should be proud.”

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eter Ward is fanatical about food. Surrounded by farmhouse butters and cheeses, his wife’s homemade jams and all sorts of delicacies, it seems he thinks of little else. “The excellence of Irish food is our oldest commodity,” states Peter. “Think of our milk products, black puddings and seafood. All of these compare with the best in the world.” Peter should know what he is talking about given that he has devoted his life to food. Growing up in Navan, he lived in a house “where what was on the table was more important than the type of car in the drive.” His father loved food. “He was my original food hero,” says Peter. “He travelled the country selling cattle and always brought food home from wherever he had been: beef, cheese, fish or black pudding.” After leaving school, Peter worked for the Dunnes Stores supermarket chain.

They sent him to Tipperary where he met his wife Mary at a local dance. The pair saw a gap in the market for a speciality food store and in 1982 they set up Country Choice in Nenagh. In the years since then, the shop has become a haven for anyone with an interest in food. “We sell food we like ourselves, food we would serve our visitors on a Sunday,” explains Peter. When they first opened, their stock consisted of Mary’s jams and the finest produce to be found at local agricultural shows and country markets. “I’d go and see who had won what prizes,” says Peter. “Then I’d ring them up and order supplies from them. That’s how we developed our contacts with people.” Their focus was always on organic, natural food. “We had duck eggs, brown soda bread and jam in the window that first day,” remembers Peter. “They could be our family crest because they are still the basis of what we do today.” In the 30 years since then, he and Mary have added more and more produce to their shelves. They also make and serve the best of Irish food in their café. “For us, it’s all about where the food comes from,” says Peter. “Who makes it and how do they make it. These are the important questions.” In fact, Peter thinks these questions might just give us the answer to Ireland’s current economic problems. “Nobody is going to drop out of the skies into the rural parishes of Ireland,” he says. “We JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 31


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need to look to our own and what we are good at, which is tourism and food. Combine the two and work from there.” He believes every tourist coming to Ireland should look forward to tasting Irish lamb, beef, butter, bread and milk. “And we should deliver on that promise,” he continues. “It’s treasonable to give our valuable guests cheap, foreign, mass-produced food.” Visitors to Country Choice in Nenagh and to the shop/café now open in Limerick’s Milk Market will certainly find that Peter and Mary deliver on the promises they make to their customers. “Country Choice is a home away from home for us and all our customers,” says Peter. It’s a home where you’ll always be invited to sit at the table and savor the best of Irish food.www.countrychoice.ie

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id you know that Ireland has been renowned for its dairy produce for centuries? The city of Cork was once home to the largest butter market in the world and Irish butter was shipped from there to destinations as far away as India, Australia and Brazil. One family is doing its utmost to restore Ireland’s reputation for fine dairy produce. Glenilen Farm is to be found at the end of a winding country lane in West Cork. Here, the Kingston family have a herd of cows whose milk they use to make the creamiest of yoghurts, butters, creams and cheesecakes. “We aim to make the freshest and most natural dairy produce,” says Valerie Kingston. “All of our butter, cream, yoghurts and other products are full of natural goodness and don’t have any additives or preservatives. This gives them a pure, authentic farmhouse taste.”

Alan and Valerie Kingston on their Glenilen Farm.

Glenilen Farm has been in Alan Kingston’s family for generations but it wasn’t until Alan married Valerie (also a farmer’s daughter from West Cork) that they started to make dairy produce. Valerie had studied food technology at university and set up a cheese-making enterprise in Burkina Faso after she left university. Finding herself newly married, she decided to use the skills she had learned at university and refined in Africa to make cheese from the milk produced by the farm’s cows. It wasn’t long before she was making cheesecakes and yoghurts in her kitchen. Pleased with the results, her next step was to set up a stall at Bantry’s Farmers’ Market. She soon had regular customers who loved her produce as much as she did. That was 1997 and what started as a kitchen enterprise has now become a business employing more than 20 people. Glenilen products are now stocked throughout Ireland and in Tesco in the UK. These changes have meant that Alan and Valerie have had to increase production and automate some of their processes. Despite this, their principles remain

the same as ever. “Our products are made using the best ingredients available, reflecting our steadfast belief in the goodness of wholesome, natural food,” says Alan. You can taste the difference this makes to their produce. Their yoghurts are smooth and creamy. Their cheesecakes and mousses are bursting with fresh flavor. This is Irish dairy produce at its absolute best. www.glenilenfarm.com.

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nce upon a time, coastal dwellers combed the shorelines of Ireland for edible seaweeds. Carrageen, sea spaghetti and duileasc were all commonly found on the Irish table. Today, this practice has virtually died away. “By the 1970s, we were among the very few who harvested from the shore,” recalls Prannie Rhatigan, author of The Irish Seaweed Kitchen, a book that aims to revive the tradition of seaweed harvesting. “I think folk memory still associated it with extreme poverty.” Prannie grew up in Sligo where her father would take her seaweed harvesting. “He taught us all about the glistening crop on the shore,” she remembers.

Food Festivals

If you’d like to sample the best of Irish fare on your next trip to Ireland, why not pay a visit to one of the country’s many food festivals?

The Galway International Oyster Festival takes place from the 21st to the 25th of September. Now in its 57th year, it celebrates the start of the oyster season and the world-famous Galway Bay oysters. www.galwayoysterfest.com

The Dingle Food Festival takes place from the 30th of September to the 2nd of October. Expect cookery demonstrations, food markets, foraging walks and a taste trail that leads you through the town sampling local produce as you go. www.dinglefood.com

The Kinsale Gourmet Festival takes place from the 7th to the 9th of October. Local restaurants and food producers come together in Kinsale to showcase the very best Cork has to offer. www.kinsalerestaurants.com

For information on other food festivals, visit http://www.discoverireland.com 32 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

The Savour Kilkenny Food Festival takes place from the 28th to the 31st of October. It features cookery demonstrations, special seafood tastings, food markets and workshops in forgotten skills such as apple pressing and flour milling. www.savourkilkenny.com.


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“The cycle would begin after the first frosts had sweetened the sleabhac and would continue throughout the year with other seaweeds.” She continues to harvest seaweed to this day. “If the moon is new or full, I harvest some seaweed for my family and friends,” she says. It was these same friends who urged her to write her book. “They love my seaweed recipes and encouraged me to write them down before the knowledge was lost,” says Prannie. While researching her book, Prannie discovered just how old seaweed harvesting is in Ireland. The 5th century Brehon Laws mention duileasc as a condiment to be served with bread, whey milk and butter. Seaweed is referred to in a poem written by a monk in the 12th century, and a 1938 survey found that 32 species of seaweed were eaten in Connemara. “I came to see that Ireland’s long association with edible seaweeds, and with duileasc in particular, has earned that plant the right to become a national symbol akin to the pint of Guinness, the Aran sweater, the potato and the harp,” says Prannie. Prannie passionately believes that more of us should eat seaweed, as our ancestors did. Her book tells us how to source, identify, prepare, cook and store it. It features 150 recipes covering everything from soups to sushi and even

chocolate cake. There’s even a chart outlining the nutritional properties of each seaweed. “Like many before me, I grew up with the understanding that seaweeds were not just tasty, but healthy and nutritious too,” says Prannie. “This is something I wanted to pass on to my readers.” Many of the recipes in the book are Prannie’s own. Others come from her friends and family. And still more are from well-known chefs and cooks. Darina Allen, Richard Corrigan and Californian Alice Waters all contribute their favorite seaweed recipes. Prannie hopes her book will inspire others to make more use of the seaweeds on our shores. “Our ancestors were lucky to have seaweed,” she says. “We are lucky too because seaweed remains a food option. It’s a living treasure by the shore.” www.prannie.com Donal Skehan, Peter Ward, Prannie Rhatigan and Alan and Valerie Kingston are part of a growing group of people who believe in the value and quality of Irish food. These people know that what we have to offer extends far beyond a plate of bacon and cabbage or a bowl of Irish stew served with boiled potatoes. They realize that we have many other fine ingredients IA that are worth celebrating too. Prannie Rhatigan collecting seaweed

Pint-Glass Bread Peter Ward devised this recipe for his son Jeff, who missed homebaked bread while a student at university. He reasoned that every student had a pint glad (20-ounce imperial pint glass) 1 pint glass (21⁄2 cups) all-purpose flour 1 pint glass (21⁄2 cups) stone-ground whole wheat flour Enough baking soda to coat the bottom of a pint glass (3⁄4 tsp.) Enough salt to coat the bottom of a pint glass (3⁄4 tsp.) Enough butter to coat the bottom of a pint glass (1 tbsp.) ⁄4 pint glass (13⁄4 cups) buttermilk

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1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Sprinkle 1 tsp. of the all-purpose flour over the center of a baking sheet and set aside. Put 2 tsp. of the all-purpose flour into a small bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, put remaining all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and mix well with your hands to combine. Add butter, breaking it up into small pieces with your fingers, and mix it into flour mixture until combined. Make a well in the center of the flour–butter mixture and add buttermilk. Slowly incorporate buttermilk into flour mixture with your hands until a rough ball forms, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a neat ball (without kneading). 2. Transfer dough to center of baking sheet and press gently to form a 7 1⁄2"-wide round. Using a sharp knife, slash a cross 1⁄2" deep across the entire top of the loaf and dust top of loaf with the reserved flour. Bake until bread is light golden and a tap on the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow, about 70 minutes. Wrap bread in a clean kitchen towel, prop against a windowsill, and allow to cool for about 2 hours. Slice and serve at room temperature or toasted, with a slathering of Irish butter, if you like.

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The acclaimed actor discusses his role as Ireland’s first Cultural Ambassador, his experience as an emigrant, and his thoughts on the strong ties and the disconnects between Ireland and America.

Re-Imagining

Ireland with

Gabriel

Byrne By Sheila Langan

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he most immediately striking thing about Gabriel Byrne, aside from his very light blue eyes and the chunky silver Claddagh ring he wears on his right hand (and the fact that he is Gabriel Byrne), is the thoughtfulness with which he approaches every question and topic. As many interviewers before me have commented, his answers do at times seem to verge on the tangential or even evasive. But he lets nothing rest at a superficial level. Sure, ask him a prying question and he may step nimbly around the issue with a quote from Shakespeare and a loosely related anecdote. Why not? Celebrities need to be artful to maintain some degree of pri-

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vacy. But ask him a question about film, or the Catholic Church, or what it is to be an emigrant, and you will receive a profound reply. These things too, after all, can be personal. So I learned when we met one recent evening at a cafĂŠ in Soho to discuss his latest role, one he's held since St. Patrick's Day 2010, when then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen issued the official announcement that made Gabriel Byrne Ireland's first Cultural Ambassador. It's hard to imagine anyone better suited to the part. Since 1988, when he moved to New York from London to be with his wife at the time, actress Ellen Barkin, Byrne has been, stardom aside,


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PHOTO: JEFF LIPSKY

an Irish man living in America. This, combined with his three decades as an actor in Ireland, in London, in Hollywood and on Broadway, puts Byrne at a fairly unique vantage point when it comes to considering Irish arts at home and abroad. The question is, what exactly does a Cultural Ambassador do? “Well, it's never been done before, so nobody really knows,” Byrne says matter-of-factly, sipping on an Americano and picking at some bread he winkingly told our waitress was “lethal.” “But the stuff that I have done so far I'm quite proud of.” As Ambassador, he works closely with

Culture Ireland, the government agency for promoting Irish arts and culture, on an initiative called “Imagine Ireland,” an ambitious year-long program of Irish arts in the United States. Byrne is quick to assert that he works on a strictly voluntary basis and that the job is “part-time.” This sounds unlikely at first – Cultural Ambassador isn't something that readily comes to mind when one thinks about part-time jobs – but it's the truth when you consider his work load. In the past year, as Dr. Paul Weston on HBO's therapy drama In Treatment, Byrne often worked fourteen-hour days to keep up with the show's demanding schedule; when we meet he has just

wrapped up a film in London with Charlotte Rampling. But in the midst of shooting various projects, Byrne has represented Ireland admirably – criss-crossing the States for various Imagine Ireland launches and events; recording his oral history at New York University's Archives of Irish America for an exhibition at Lincoln Center's Library for the Performing Arts; curating an Irish film retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Eugene Downes, CEO of Culture Ireland, calls Byrne one of the driving forces behind the project, which had been in the works for some time: “When I first met Gabriel four years ago,” he shared JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 35


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Gabriel via e-mail, “the range and depth of his vision for Irish culture in America threw down a gauntlet to everyone in the room. His thinking challenged us to develop a more ambitious strategy for cultural engagement that reflected the changing dynamics of Ireland's presence in the United States. His ideas have helped shape the “Imagine Ireland” concept at every stage of its development…He has given a strong artistic voice to many of the issues at stake for Ireland as it comes through this time of crisis.”

add some personal flair to the role, stuffing a pillow up the back of his shirt to give himself a hunchback. It was something he liked to do at home when the men came to deliver coal: “I'd be sitting there with this big lump on my back and they'd look at me and say ‘Ah now, are you all right?’” He mimics their maudlin tone. “Then I did it on the stage and, whereas my mother would think it was hilarious, and the coal men would have thought it was hilarious, here I just walked on stage and walked off, and nobody even noticed.”

His own career can be read as a sort of case in point for why Byrne feels so strongly about funding for the arts, for just how important and effective amateur groups and arts centers can be. The Crumlin, Dublin native didn't start acting until his late 20s, save for once. At 12, he left Ireland to study at a seminary in England, which he firmly decided five years later was not the life for him. It was there, he tells me, that he stepped on stage for the first time – for “half a second” in the school production of the musical Oliver. Playing one of the men who bid on Oliver after he's kicked out of the workhouse, Byrne recalls that he decided to

After that, he stayed away from Drama until he was about twenty-five, when he decided that amateur drama, which he now describes as “one of the most powerful institutions in Ireland,” looked like “a cool thing to do at night instead of being in the pub.” Nobody actually told me,” he says “I just stumbled into it, I realized that it's a great way to spend your time. I couldn't wait for work to finish, to get to the theater, cause there were great people there. And leading up to a play, the tension of it. I remember we all went to Athlone to take part in the All Ireland Drama Festival, we all went on one minibus. I had never experienced anything like that.”

PHOTO: HANNAH BETH KING

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One of the inspirations behind “Imagine Ireland” stems from Byrne's early years in the Dublin theater scene: his time with the experimental, modestly government funded Project Arts Centre. “In 1979 in Dublin you had the two establishment theaters, The Gate and The Abbey, and anyone who didn't fit in there went to The Project.” The list of misfits who got their start at The Project is impressive, to say the least: Jim Sheridan, Liam Neeson, Neil Jordan, Ciaran Hinds, Nigel Rolfe, Stephen Rea, and many more. “It was great,” he continues, “nothing was off the table. John Stevenson, who was the administrator at the time, said “Let's take all this stuff that we do and bring it to England.’ And that was the first time that British audiences became aware of this Irish art. Imagine Ireland is a version of that.” When an artist from one country brings his or her work to another, a palpable exchange takes place: both artist and audience are exposed to something new. In the case of the four-hundred-plus artists coming to the U.S. this year with Imagine Ireland, the potential for exchange goes both ways. On one hand, Irish artists stand to gain something from performing or exhibiting for audiences here. “If you're an artist and you want to grow and expand and understand new things, then coming here will expose you to different viewpoints and opinions and experiences. It won't necessarily make you any better, but it will do that,” says Byrne. On the other hand, American audiences are getting a taste of more contemporary Irish art; a more comprehensive understanding of Irish culture today. “When we talk about artists here, we're not just talking about writers, artists, musicians, theater people,” he explains, “we're talking about performance artists, the full range. There's Irish classical dancing; there's Irish mime; there are young artists who are Irish but who draw their inspiration from all kinds of places.” After a pause he continues, “I would say that the perception here is a very dated and very limited one. People know certain names, and some of those names are not even known outside a particular circle. Would everybody know U2? Yes. Would everybody know Seamus Heaney? Debatable.” In this sense, in addition to recognizing the strong cultural bonds between Ireland and America, the aim also seems to be to refresh those bonds, to update them. To expose Irish Americans and Americans


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who already appreciate Joyce and Synge O'Gill and the Little People to the Bobby pushed for it to be called “Imagine and Yeats, who have seen The Quiet Man, Sands biopic Hunger, the series will conIreland”). But he does offer this: “I think who know Riverdance and The sider themes of “emigration, exile, the the artistic influence is continuous; it's Chieftains, to a new generation of Irish role of the rebel, the religious part of who we are…We are also a result artists. The Cultural Ambassador confirms figure…identity, myth, ethnicity, assimiof our history, and our history and our litthis: “That's one of the things I want to try lation, gender, the role of the woman in erature are entwined so that we have, on and do. Well, it's the Culture Ireland agenIrish film.” Beyond this, the aim is to the one hand, the saddest music and the da, I suppose, to increase that awareness raise – but not, he emphasizes, necessarimost joyful music, and we have the sadhere. To bring it up to date and to break ly to answer – the questions “Who are we dest poems. If you look through an antholdown some of the outdated ideas that we as a group? How are we portrayed? How ogy of Irish poems, it's incredible how have, that people have here, about what is are we perceived?” It has always fascinatmelancholy we are. You know what G.K. going on over there.” ed him, he says, that “[As Irish,] in terms Chesterton said about the Irish? ‘The Irish In Byrne's opinion and experience, this of film, our story has, up to a certain were the race that God made mad. For all disconnect is one effect of the emigrant's point, been told for us, not by us.” This is their wars were merry and all their songs journey, and is especially central to that of problematic, he believes, because “a great were sad.’ Bit stupid as a remark, but it the Irish emigrant. He calls does capture something.” exile “the Irish story,” and is And who is he as a result of adamant that once you have left his journey? He doesn’t say a country, you can never look specifically, but he says a lot back on it and see it in the same generally. Of leaving one’s way. He raises the fascinating homeland, he remarks “It allows point that this idea plays a part the artist a distance from where in Irish myths from long before he lives and where he was born emigration was ever a word or and the influences that shaped an issue. He re-tells the story of him, so that you can do a Osin returning home from Tir different version of looking na Nog, even though he was back. So that, instead of told not to, and aging the secyearning, you can look back over ond he sets foot on land. the other shoulder and do it more “That myth is [thousands] of with objectivity.” When asked years old. It's powerful, and its about Ireland today he expresses telling people 'You cannot great anger towards the Catholic return, it's not possible to come church – an emotional issue, back. You go to this place and considering his disclosure last you stay there.' It's a warning Gabriel Byrne and writer Colum McCann at the New York year of the abuse he suffered as a telling you to think very care- launch of Imagine Ireland in January 2011. boy under the Christian Brothers. fully about where it is that your He shows concern over the posdeal of what we know about each other as spirit settles.” Byrne moves on to the sibility that Ireland might be losing its people comes from our knowledge of Bible, to Lot and his wife, who turns into unique voice: “I could write you 20 pages film.” a pillar of salt for looking back; to the of words where, if I went back to the part One night of the retrospective will feaChildren of Lír, exiled as swans in their of Dublin where I grew up, kids there ture Byrne in conversation with Irish filmown land; to a tale from Co. Cavan he had today wouldn't understand them,” he tells maker Jim Sheridan. Another, with Martin read the night before about a woman who me. He’d like to see that voice grow Scorsese, whom he looks forward to talkis banished from her town and turned into stronger so that, particularly in film, ing to because “He's an Italian American. a hare. (Throughout all this it becomes Ireland can tell its own story. He also, He comes from, he understands, that dual abundantly clear that he used to be a however, seems genuinely in awe of the conflict about ‘Where am I from? And teacher.) “Before people even left talent that has emerged from Ireland in where is this place that I'm living in? Who Ireland,” he muses, “they were concerned the past few years – in spite of the Celtic am I as a result of that journey?’” about these things.” tiger and the economic downturn, or Listening to Gabriel Byrne pose these Exile and the emigrant experience are maybe because of it. questions, I get the definite sense that he two of the many themes Byrne aims to The connections still run deep. Despite doesn't do so with the detached curiosity address in his film series, Revisiting The having lived in the U.S. for more than Quiet Man: Ireland on Film, which is runof a critic or a scholar, but with real pertwenty years and raising his two children ning at MoMA form May 20 – June 3. sonal investment. He is, after all, not just here (his daughter is starting college in the John Ford's iconic and extremely romana spectator of Irish film but part of its fall), he still very much considers himself tic portrayal of 1950s Ireland will be the history, too. Irish, not Irish American. But then, for starting point for a larger discussion So who are we, as Irish? Byrne doesn't him it seems that there are different kinds Byrne hopes to provoke. Via The Quiet think there can be one answer. In fact, he of home: “Home in the most profound Man and other films about Ireland, rangencourages everyone to imagine his or her spiritual sense is always Ireland. [But] ing from Robert Stevenson's Darby own Ireland (apparently, that’s why he your children determine where home is.” 38 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011


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merican actor Martin Sheen commented in an interview published in Irish America that he loves his Irish heritage in part because the Irish have never planted their flag on the soil of another nation. He loves the Irish because Ireland has always exported poets and artists and clergy but not armies. He is proud that Ireland has never invaded anyone. Yes….well. Though his beliefs may be correct in a technical sense, just about nothing could be further from the historical reality. While it may be true that in the past 1,000 years the various political entities that made up Ireland never invaded another nation, during that same period Ireland’s number one export has been soldiers. So many soldiers, in fact, that not one but several nations can reckon in their own military heritage entire units made up exclusively of Irishmen. The students at the University of Notre Dame are not known as the “Fighting Irish” due to a well-known Irish predilection for passivity. It should come as no surprise then to learn that one of the most celebrated, decorated, and famous units in all of American military history was a brigade known during the American Civil War as simply “The Irish Brigade.” The Civil War was a uniquely American tragedy. It is not just hyperbole when historians and pundits alike make reference to the war that pitted “brother against brother.” America tore herself apart and was only stitched back together again with a heavy thread soaked in the blood of an entire generation. It is no wonder then that the war continues to fascinate Americans even to this day. It was, and for some still is, a war of great passions. Regardless of one’s sentiments about the causes and

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“When anything absurd, forlorn, or desperate was to be attempted, the Irish Brigade was called upon.” ~George Alfred Townsend conduct of the war, certain names still ring down through the halls of time, carrying with them the echoes of heroism almost beyond comprehension. Names like Lee and Grant are instantly familiar

to Americans, and for those with even a passing knowledge of history, units such as the famous “Iron Brigade” of the Union Army and the “Stonewall Brigade” of the Confederate still strike a chord. Yet even among this pantheon of heroes and heroic units. the name, legend and history of one group of men stands out: the “Irish Brigade” of the Union Army. To understand the Irish Brigade one must look back before the war. As most people know, Irish immigration to the United States took off in the 1840’s, in response to the potato blight and famine in Ireland. Between 1846 and 1854 more than one million Irish emigrated to the United States. Most Irish Americans are also aware that upon arrival here the majority of Irish immigrants met with something considerably less than an enthusiastic welcoming committee. Antiimmigrant, and specifically anti-Irish sentiment ran high in some areas of the United States, particularly among a splinter political group called the “KnowNothings.” (The name came from their standard response when questioned about the membership or activities of their secretive political party.) One by-product of this blatant hostility was, ironically, the solidification of the unique identity of the Irish-American community. Pushed together in the slums of mid-19th century cities like New York and Boston, the Irish responded by welding together a new political identity and working towards acceptance through the development of political power. At the same time, the majority of the “average” Irish-Americans stuck in the cities tried to blend in with American society in other ways. One obvious route to cultural assimilation is imitation. In the mid-1850s, one

PHOTOGRPAHER:WILLIAM MORRIS SMITH (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS).

As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, Matthew Brennan remembers the shining role of the Irish Brigade.


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Brigade

TOP: Brothers of Ireland by Don Troiani. LEFT: 1865: General Robert Nugent (3rd from left) and staff. Nugent, who was born in Kilkeel, Co. Down, helped Thomas Francis Meagher in organizing the Irish Bridage and was the Brigade’s last commander. He led the “Fighting 69th” at the Battles of Fair Oaks, Gaines Mill, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Glendale, Malvern Hill, and Antietam before being wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He died in 1901. OPPOSITE PAGE: The Irish Brigade Monument at Gettysburg.


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of the most curious trends to sweep America was the “Rage Militaire.” This was a civilian fascination with all things military. The Rage manifested itself in ladies’ fashions and social titles, but most especially in the veritable horde of social-club-turnedmilitia-unit organizations that sprang up across the country. In New York and Philadelphia, from Cleveland to Boston, men joined these “militia” units not with the expectation of true military service, but for the camaraderie and pageantry. They equipped themselves in the finest uniforms (of their own design) with the best rifles, muskets and bayonets, and practiced week in and week out on the fancy “evolutions” (formations and movements) of the tactics of that day. The best of these units, some having as many as a thousand men, actually went on multi-city tours displaying their ability to march and parade in intricate formations. Drill and ceremony competitions between these units took place in giant jamborees that brought together thousands of men to march and compete for bragging rights. When visiting dignitaries arrived on American soil and a parade was required, the various state militias stepped up to fill the gap left by the fact that there really wasn’t much of a “regular” army in the nation. One of these militia units was the 69th New York State Militia (NYSM). Selfequipped and dressed in the sharpest uniforms of the day, the 69th was an entirely Irish regiment. In addition to providing a pleasant diversion, it was also hoped that participation in units like the 69th would go a long way to improving the standing of Irish-Americans in the larger community of New York. Then, in the summer of 1859, the future King of England arrived on a tour. Naturally, the State of New York planned a parade in which all the varied units of the New York State Militia were ordered to participate. History has not recorded the name of the genius that had the bright idea to parade between 500 to 800 armed Irish expatriates in front of the Prince of Wales. It was, all things considered, probably 42 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

Clockwise: Lt. Col. James J. Smith (sixth from left, first row), a native of Monaghan, is pictured with officers of 69th New York Infantry (Irish Brigade). Col. Michael Corcoran from Co. Sligo who led the 69th into the First Battle at Bull Run. Meagher’s Zouaves, who became part of the Irish Brigade.

a good thing for Anglo-Saxon relations over the next hundred years that the commander of the 69th NYSM, Colonel Michael Corcoran, so hated the English that he refused the order and chose to be arrested rather than allow the 69th to march that afternoon. One can only imagine what the fallout, both in the United States and in Ireland, might have been should one of the 69th’s muskets “accidentally” gone off and hit His Royal Highness. Still, the men of the 69th were none too pleased with the subsequent arrest of their colonel. This might have led to larger problems were it not for the start of the largest “problem” of all, the American Civil War. he Civil War was America’s bloodiest conflict. Some 620,000 men died while in service during the four-year war. By comparison only around 25,000 died in the eight years of the American Revolutionary War. Regional factionalism and the issue of slavery tore the nation apart so thoroughly that it could only be brought

T

together again through the force of arms. It was, by any measure, a national tragedy. Yet it carried within it the seeds of legend. By late 1861 it was widely recognized among the nascent political leaders of the Irish-American community that one sure route to social acceptance in their adopted nation was through military service. Some saw the presence of Irish immigrants upon the fields of battle in the developing war as a method to display the ancient concept of “Civic Virtue.” Accordingly, and despite their initial political opposition to the Republican administration of Lincoln, Irish America threw its full weight into the war. The most visible result of this was The Irish Brigade, which became the most famous unit in the Union Army of the Potomac, and arguably one of the most celebrated units in all American history. The history of the Irish Brigade is tied inextricably to the story of their first and most celebrated commander, Colonel, later Brigadier General, Thomas Francis Meagher. Depending upon the sources one relies upon, Meagher was variously an inspired leader, a hopeless drunk, a patriotic American, an ardent Irish nationalist, a closet Fenian, or an inveter-


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The Irish Brigade ate politician. The complex reality was that he was, at various times and under different circumstances, all of these things. Born in Waterford, Ireland in 1823, Thomas Francis Meagher was certainly an ardent supporter of the idea of Irish nationalism. As the son of a wealthy merchant, he got a solid 19th-century education. While studying law in Dublin, he became a member of the “Young Ireland” movement. This splinter group of the Irish Brotherhood movement

pany of men, known as Meagher’s Zouaves, are the second strand in the founding of the Irish Brigade. (A Zouave was a special type of French military unit known for a uniform consisting of short blue jackets, a fez, and red pantaloons. This style of uniform was considered the very height of military chic in 1861 and only self-styled “elite” units wore this type of clothing.) Meagher’s Zouaves joined the 69th NYSM as “Company K” in the very first major battle of the Civil War, at Bull Run Creek in Northern

PHOTO: JAMES F. GIBSON/LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

advocated the use of whatever means necessary, including violent opposition, to achieve independence from Britain. Meagher, as well as several other leaders of the movement, participated in the rebellion conspiracy of 1848. Caught and initially sentenced to death, Meagher was lucky enough to have his sentence reduced to exile. His deportation to Tasmania was a relatively congenial confinement, so much so that he was able to arrange for his “escape” in quite an open manner. He landed in the United States in 1852 and immediately began to maneuver his way into positions of influence in the developing political machinery of the Irish-American community. When the Civil War broke out Meagher immediately raised a company of infantrymen (of which he was naturally elected Captain). This separate com-

TOP: Savage Station, Virginia. Union field hospital after the battle of June 27. RIGHT: General Thomas Francis Meagher

Virginia in the summer of 1861. Although the battle was an abysmal defeat for the Union troops, the Irish of the 69th did fairly well that afternoon, and Meagher got the idea that if one regiment of Irishmen could do well, a brigade of them (made up of three to five regiments) could do much better. Thus was born the idea of the “Irish Brigade.” From the outset, observers recognized that this brigade would be special. This was an era when whole groups volunteered en masse, and served together with their friends and neighbors. This

practice led to the identification of some units not just by region or state, but by occupation as well. At least two units, the 11th New York State Volunteers, and the 72nd Pennsylvania State Volunteers were known unofficially as the “Fire Zouaves.” This nickname came from the fact that both regiments, some 1,000 men each, enlisted from the ranks of the Fire Departments of New York and Philadelphia. Most units, however, retained their special regional distinction. The Irish Brigade, on the other hand, would recruit from up and down the Eastern Seaboard, seeking Irishmen to join the ranks, regardless of the American city in which they resided. Originally the Irish Brigade consisted of three regiments from New York City, the 63rd, 69th and 88th New York. These units, although they drew heavily on the membership of the earlier 69th New York State Militia, were a separate category of troops known as “State Volunteers.” (The vast majority of all soldiers that fought in the Civil War were in units of this type.) This meant that they served at the discretion of the federal government, not that of the states. On the other hand, they were still allowed to retain some of their individual character, and one way that they did this was through their battle flags. During the Civil War, leaders used flags to guide the men in the smoke and confusion of battle. Every regiment in the Union Army had two flags, one American flag and one representing the regiment itself. Infantry regimental flags were blue. When they mustered up to strength in New York, all three of the original regiments of the Irish Brigade received fine new regimental standards to guide the units in battle. But there was one thing different about their flags. Rather than the regulation blue of the infantry, all three were brilliant green. Set against these green silk backgrounds were the symbols of an embroidered harp and a clenched fist from which a cloud is shooting lightning. Also inscribed is the motto “Faugh au Ballaghs,” which they translated as “Clear the Way!” As the only units, North or South, that fought under green banners, the Irishmen of the JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 43


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Irish Brigade stood out for miles around. Later on, other regiments, such as the 116th Pennsylvania from Philadelphia and the 28th Massachusetts from Boston, would join the Brigade as their numbers fell lower and lower due to casualties and disease. They too would fight under green banners given to them by their home cities, but as the battles passed, the regiment’s flavor as a distinctly Irish unit slowly faded. Casualties and tragedies took their toll. At its peak the Brigade mustered some 3,500 men in the ranks. By the end of their service the whole Brigade could barely send forward a tenth of that number. In the process of going from the higher number to the lower they would create a legend in American military history which echoes even today. f all the battles fought by the Irish Brigade, three stand out as requiring the greatest willingness to make supreme sacrifice in the cause of liberty: Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. At Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland in mid-September 1862 the Irish Brigade made their first down payment on immortality. The Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, was the bloodiest single day in American history. To put this fight into perspective you can compare it to the losses on D-Day in World War Two. During the entire invasion and over the course of the next two weeks, some 24,162 Americans became casualties. In comparison, during the twelve hours of the Battle of Antietam some 26,050 Americans fell on the fields of battle. In the very center of this storm of steel stood the men of the Irish Brigade. On September 17, 1862, the sheer cussedness of these Irishmen catapulted them to international fame, but at a tremendous cost. Antietam Creek runs north to south and into the Potomac River just north of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. On that afternoon it marked the point at which Confederate General Robert E. Lee planned to invade the Union by way of the Shenandoah, the point at which Cumberland River Valley stopped. As Lee pulled his scattered army together, the Union Army of the Potomac attacked. The attacks started at dawn, at

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the northern end of the battlefield. By late morning the combatants on that end of the field lay exhausted or dead and the fighting shifted to the center. Finally, towards the end of the day the battle shifted once more to the south. It was against the center of Lee’s lines that Colonel Meagher led the original three regiments of the Irish Brigade at a little after ten thirty in the morning. The Irish Brigade marched steadily forward behind their three fluttering green silk banners. Equipped solely with smoothbore muskets at a time when most of the rest of both armies had rifles (which allowed for longer-range fire) Meagher’s plan was to close within a literal stone’s throw of the enemy.

Knowing that this would entail casualties but trusting to the courage of his men, he hoped to close in and then blast away at a range at which even the smoothbores could not miss. Their approach carried them up a long, slow rise towards a crest in the middle of a farmer’s field. As the Irish crested the slight ridge in the field, they were met with a fierce blast of musketry. The shattering fire came from a line of Confederate infantry partially protected in a slightly sunken road just beyond the crest of the rise. Rather than fall back or retreat a step in the face of the withering fire, the Irish stood their ground and traded shot after shot at point-blank range with the Alabamans to their front. Second by sec-


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A Donnybrook at Dusk

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he series of battles that took place around Richmond between June 25 and July 1, 1862, are known as the Seven Days’ Campaign. These included clashes between Union and Confederate forces at Gaines Mill, Savage Station, Glendale and Malvern Hill. The battles marked the end of the Union’s Peninsula Campaign, which attempted to bring an end to the war by capturing Richmond. Each of these battles was hard fought in searing heat with appalling casualties on both sides. At the final engagment, Malvern Hill, General Lee ordered his Confederate infantry to assault the entrenched Union troops. In reply, well-placed Union artillery cut the advancing Southern forces to shreds, prompting one Confederate general to later exclaim “this was not war – this was murder.” When the seven days of fighting were over, Lee counted 20,000 men lost while Union commander McClellan tallied 11,000. Little of strategic value was gained. General McClellan withdrew his Union LEFT: A Donnybrook at troops to the north allowing Dusk: The Irish Brigade General Lee to begin his attacks on at the Battle of Malvern Union positions in Northern Hill by artist Bradley Virginia. Schmehl. The famous Fighting 69th NY regiment stormed down Malvern Hill screaming in Gaelic “Clear the Way!” as they mixed it up with the rambunctious Louisiana Tigers. The 10th LA, also composed of many recent immigrants from Ireland, engaged in a new fratricidal hand-tohand struggle with their northern brethren.

Battle at Malvern Hill The Civil War could literally tear a family apart, pitting brother against brother or father against son as each rallied to the flag of the cause that captured his heart. There is no more dramatic evidence of this than the encounter that took

ond, minute by minute, the casualties piled up. Accounts from survivors talk of the battle rage that came upon some men to the degree that when they ran out of bullets they began throwing rocks at the enemy. Anything to inflict pain on the men that were dealing the Brigade such punishment. At the end of the fighting on this part of the line, almost two hours later, the Irish Brigade marched away, leaving some 550 sons of Erin prone upon the fields. The sunken farm path where their opponents lay stacked in heaps has been known ever since as simply “Bloody Lane.” The Battle of Antietam so damaged the Brigade that two more regiments, the 28th Massachusetts and the 116th

place on the battlefield at Malvern Hill July 1, 1862. Captain D. P. Conyngham was an officer in the Irish Brigade and described the incident shortly after the war: “I had a Sergeant Driscoll, a brave man, and one of the best shots in the Brigade. When charging at Malvern Hill , a company was posted in a clump of trees, who kept up a fierce fire on us, and actually charged out on our advance. Their officer seemed to be a daring, reckless boy, and I said to Driscoll, ‘If that officer is not taken down, many of us will fall before we pass that clump. “Leave that to me,’ said Driscoll; so he raised his rifle, and the moment the officer exposed himself again bang went Driscoll, and over went the officer, his company at once breaking away. “As we passed the place I said, ‘Driscoll, see if that officer is dead – he was a brave fellow.’ “I stood looking on. Driscoll turned him over on his back. He opened his eyes for a moment, and faintly murmured ‘Father,’ and closed them forever. “I will forever recollect the frantic grief of Driscoll; it was harrowing to witness. He was his son, who had gone South before the war. “And what became of Driscoll afterwards? Well, we were ordered to charge, and I left him there; but, as we were closing in on the enemy, he rushed up, with his coat off, and, clutching his musket, charged right up at the enemy, calling on the men to follow. He soon fell, but jumped up again. We knew he was wounded. On he dashed, but he soon rolled over like a top. When we came up he was dead, riddled with bullets.” Citation for text: “Battlefield Tragedy, 1862” EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (1999) Illustration: A Donnybrook at Dusk: The Irish Brigade at the Battle of Malvern Hill by artist Bradley Schmehl. (To purchase a print see http://slavinsgallery.com/schmehl.htm

Pennsylvania, also mostly Irish, joined the Brigade before the next engagement that December. At Fredericksburg, Virginia the situation was, if at all possible, even worse. Just three months later, on the 13th of December, 1862, the Union Army once again attacked the Confederates under the command of Robert E. Lee. This time Lee was not scattered and scrambling to reassemble his far-flung divisions, he was dug-in and waiting for the Union assault. The Army of the Potomac, under the dubious command of General Ambrose Burnside (the man we have to thank for the word “sideburns”) obliged Lee with a series of frontal assaults against the southern fortifications on a

ridge just south of Fredericksburg known as Marye’s Heights. The Confederates had placed artillery, almost wheel-hub to wheel-hub, all along the heights. At the base of the hill, in yet another semi-sunken road, stood resolute Confederate infantry. Tragically, some of these men were also Irish immigrants whose path to the New World had brought them to the South. To approach this formidable position the Union infantry had to cross some 600 yards of open fields, a heartbreaking task. Even at the time the soldiers hoped that a frontal attack would not be needed, that by some measure of generalship Lee might be outmaneuvered elsewhere and forced to abandon this strong position. Such was not to be. JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 45


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In preparation for the fight, Meagher, now a Brigadier General, ordered the men of the Irish Brigade to place sprigs of boxwood in their caps as a symbol of the Brigade. The Brigade would march forward under a single green banner, that of the 28th Massachusetts, since those of the three New York regiments had been so torn by bullets at Antietam that Meagher had ordered them sent to New York to be repaired. No one doubted that if an attack were to come it would be a tough one indeed. In defiance of common military sense and, some might say, a sense of decency, General Burnside hurled no less than six major and eleven minor attacks against the impregnable Confederate emplacements. All of them lethal, all of them dismal failures. Once again the Irish walked forward into a veritable sleet of lead and fire. Motivated by pride and ego, they marched into a sleet of shrapnel and bullets that had already turned back unit after unit that day. They marched in their straight lines, standing tall behind the banner of Erin, until they reached a point about twenty yards from the Confederate infantry positions, and there they stayed and slugged it out. The unit was shredded. They had advanced further than any other Union unit had that day, and further than any would. Although tens of thousands would try, no other Union unit made it that far, and thus none could relieve the pressure on the Irishmen. They became the double victims of their own bravery. Only the setting sun would save those that lived. As the sun dropped below the horizon that afternoon it cast eerie shadows across what looked like a blue carpet. A total of some 9,000 Union soldiers lay as casualties on the battlefield at Fredericksburg. In the center of the field, lying the absolute closest of all to the entrenched Confederate positions, were long lines of Union dead with green sprigs of boxwood in their hats. The 28th Massachusetts, for example, lost 158 men. This represents about 38% of the 416 who followed their colors up the bloody slope that winter day. The butcher’s bill fell with equal weight among all five regiments of the Irish Brigade. Overall these “Wild Geese” suffered a total of 535 casualties, or twothirds the strength that they carried into the fight, in the fruitless assault. At dusk, the survivors of the regiment still on the 46 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

PHOTO:TIMOTHY H O'SULLIVAN/LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.

The Irish Brigade

field joined the rest of their comrades in the Irish Brigade in falling back down to the safety of the town of Fredericksburg. One Union officer, General Edwin Sumner, commander of the II Corps, was riding along the lines the next morning as the units were reforming. Sumner was known as a stern disciplinarian of the Regular Army. At one point he rode up and rebuked a man of the 28th Massachusetts for standing around and not being in company formation with his comrades. Sumner could say nothing when the Irish private looked up at the general on horseback and replied in a thick brogue, “This is all my company sir.” he Irish Brigade fairly ceased to exist after their next battle, the largest of the entire War: Gettysburg. Gettysburg is seen by some as the turning point in the war. Gettysburg was Robert E. Lee’s second attempt to carry the fight into the North and increase the pressure on the Union to allow the South to secede. This three-day battle, fought

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from the First to the Third of July, 1863, is known by many as the “High Water Mark” of the Confederacy. Whether or not it was a “turning point” can be debated. Certainly never again would the South be able to invade the North, and rarely if ever would the armies of the Confederacy approach the strength they had that summer. One thing, however, was established beyond a doubt: The Union Army could win.


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Left: (Back row) Patrick Dillon, unidentified; and (front row, left to right) unidentified, James Dillon, and William Corby. The identified men are priests of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, University of Notre Dame. (Source: E. Hogan, Univ. Notre Dame Archives, 2009.) Below: Alan Pinkerton of the secret service, Abraham Lincoln, and Mayor John McClernand, at Gettysburg, 1862. OPPOSITE PAGE: Top: Gettysburg, Pa. John L. Burns, the "old hero of Gettysburg," with gun and crutches. Bottom: Antietam, Maryland. Burying the dead Confederate soldiers.

In terms of raw numbers both armies were fairly evenly matched. The Union victory, therefore, was not a sure thing. This was especially true on the second day of the battle. The first day had gone poorly for the Union, with three of their corps badly torn up and thrown back through the town of Gettysburg. Although the first day of the battle was definitely a Confederate win in conventional terms, the second day opened with the Union hanging on to the high ground to the south and east of the town. If they

could just hold on through the day, as the Confederates attacked but Union reinforcements continued to arrive, then the momentum might swing in the Union’s favor. Thus, although the Irish did not arrive until the second day of the battle, their contribution there was critical. This was the situation as the Confederate First Corps under the command of General James Longstreet attacked the Union right. Union regiment after regiment was fed

into the fight piecemeal as they arrived in the area, yet still the Confederates threatened to break through the Union battle lines. If they could, they would turn the battle, and potentially the war, in their favor. Into this chaotic swirling mass of men, material and munitions strode the remnants of the proud Irish Brigade. Decimated by the effects of battle, disease and fatigue they were but a shadow of the force that had stepped off into the attack at Antietam, yet still they stood tall beneath their renewed green banners. During a moment of crisis on the Union right a messenger galloped up and delivered their orders: they were to counterattack across an open wheat field they could see in the distance to their left front. There were no other units available, all of the others were either already committed or had been thrown back in retreat. At that instant in American history, only the Irish stood between the Confederates and victory. Knowing that they would be going in alone, without supporting regiments or brigades to their left or right, the men of the Irish Brigade knew full well that the odds were against the majority of them coming out of the battle as whole men, if at all. The Brigade chaplain, none other than Father William Corby (of University of Notre Dame fame), had them kneel and issued a mass absolution right there, just a few hundred yards from the enemy. Then the Irish attacked. The attack succeeded. It bought the Union army a few desperate minutes to bring in yet more units, but the cost was the heart and the soul of the Irish Brigade. After suffering, once again, close to 50 percent casualties, the “Irish Brigade” would never be the same. Although replacements and supplemental regiments would refill the ranks, the uniquely Irish nature of the Brigade died there on the Wheatfield at Gettysburg. By the end of the war, more than 950 men of the Brigade had died on the battlefield. Overall, the Irish Brigade saw over 4,000 men killed and wounded; more men than ever belonged to the Brigade at any one time. Yet at the same time they etched a name for themselves in history. With their blood and courage they made a name that was carved so deeply into the American heart that there would never again be a question as to whether the Irish had the right to call themselves…“Americans.” IA JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 47


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{roots} By Katie McFadden

The Mighty Meaghers

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he Meagher name stems from the medieval Gaelic O’ Meachair, derived from meachar, meaning hospitable or kind, but the kindness of the Meaghers certainly hasn’t taken away from their strength and power. The name, also recorded as O’Meagher, Maher, Meagar, O’Maher, Mahar and Mahir, still holds prominence in Ireland. Over fifty percent of those bearing variations on the name come from County Tipperary, where the clan originated. The O’Meachair clan kept control over Ikerrin near the modern town of Roscrea, at the foot of the famous Devil’s Bit Mountain in northern Tipperary. During the Norman invasion in the 10th century, the O’Meachairs refused to be ousted from their territory, unlike some other Gaelic clans, and held onto their traditional lands up to the Cromwellian period. Certain Meaghers have made their mark in history. American Civil War hero Thomas Francis Meagher (1823-1867) was one of the founders of the revolutionary ‘Young Ireland’ movement. This Irish nationalist, also known as “Meagher of the Sword,” was a leader during the Rebellion of 1848, which led to his arrest and exile. Upon being transported to Australia, he managed to escape to the United States where he joined the Civil War and became Brigadier-General of the Irish Brigade of the Union Army. Another recognized military Meagher was John W. Meagher (1917-1996), a U.S. Army technical sergeant who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. He received the award for protecting the tank he rode and destroying two Mary Meagher enemy positions. Other Meaghers made their name in the sports world. Irish-American Mary T. Meagher is an Olympic champion and former world-recordholding swimmer. She held records in the 100m and 200m butterfly events for nearly 20 years. They are considered Blanche Margaret among the greatest sports performances Meagher ever and she won the title of World Swimmer of the Year in both 1981 and 1985. Lorenzo Ignatius Meagher (1899-1973), better known as Lory, is regarded as one of the greatest hurlers in the history of the game. He played for his local club, Tullaroan, and was a Kilkenny senior inter-county team member from 1924 until 1937. In 2008, the Gaelic Athletic Association created the Lory Meagher Cup for Division 4 hurling teams, in his honor.

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Canadian diplomat Blanche Margaret Meagher (1911-1999) was Canada’s first woman ambassador in 1958. She served as ambassador to Israel, Austria and Sweden. She also governed and chaired the International Atomic Energy Agency. In 1974, she was awarded the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor. Founded in 1976 by Shane de Blacam and John Meagher, De Blacam & Meagher is an Irish architecture firm known for using natural materials. The two are known as the godfathers of contemporary Irish architecture, and their award-winning projects include The Chapel of Reconciliation at the Catholic shrine at Knock, Ireland, and the Beckett Theatre at Trinity College, Dublin. At the 2010 Venice Biennale, De Blacam & Meagher were the principal exhibitors in the Irish Pavilion. Many other outstanding Meaghers go by the derivation Maher. One of these is stand-up comedian, talk show host, and political commentator Bill Maher, Brigadierknown for his political satire and conGeneral troversial commentary on HBO’s Real Thomas Francis Time with Bill Maher. Prior to this, he Meagher hosted Politically Incorrect, which was cancelled in 2002 after a nine-year run. Maher holds the 38th spot in Comedy Central’s 100 greatest stand-ups of all time and he holds the record for the most Emmy nominations (22) without a win. He was given a Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2010. Peter Maher was one of the Bill most well known athletes at the Maher end of the 19th century. The Irish American won many big matches including the 1888 Middleweight Championship of Ireland, the 1890 Heavyweight Championship of Ireland and the 1895 Heavyweight Championship of the World after moving to the United States. The Meagher coat of arms captures the strength of this family. It contains the blazon of a blue shield charged with two gold lions in rampant combat or supporting a silver sword. The family motto ‘In periculis audax’ means ‘bold in danger,’ a phrase that the Meaghers have proven to stand for throughout IA history.


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FICTION

Green Georgette By Edna O’Brien

Thursday

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ama and I have been invited to the Coughlans’. It is to be Sunday evening at seven o’clock. I imagine us setting out in good time, even though it is a short walk to the village where they live and Mama calling out to me to lift my shoes so that the high wet grass won’t stain the white patent. I expect that Rita, the maid, will admit us and we will be ushered into the room where the piano is. It is a black piano. I saw it the day the

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Coughlans moved here, saw four men drag it in, sweating and swearing, and when it was put down it emitted a little sound of its own, a ghostly broken tune. They have been here almost four months. Mr. Coughlan works in the bank, and though they have a car, he walks to work each morning, setting out punctually at twenty minutes to nine and carrying a lizard-skin attaché case. He probably walks for the exercise, as he is somewhat podgy, and there are always beads of perspiration on his forehead. He is slightly bald. Adjacent to the bank is the River Graney, and faithfully he leans over the stone bridge to look


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down at the brown, porter-colored water, or perhaps at the little fish, perches and minnows, that are carried along in the swift current. He ignores most people, giving a mere nod to one or two notables. He is not popular. His wife, on the other hand, is the cynosure of all. She is like a queen. There is not one woman who is not intrigued by her finery, her proud carriage, and her glacial smile. Every Sunday when she comes in to Mass, people gawp and nudge, as she goes up the aisle to sit as near as possible to the altar. She has a variety of smart fitted costumes and oodles of accessories and brooches. When they first came it was February and she wore a teddy bear coat that had brown leather buttons with cracks in them. They looked like fallen horse chestnuts. Soon after that, she wore a brown bouclé coat that came almost to her ankles and she wore it open so as to reveal a contrasting colored dress in muted orange. She has a butterfly brooch, an amber brooch with a likeness of a beetle, a long-leafed marcasite brooch, and a turquoise wreathed with little seed pearls. Her first name is Drew. Her sister Effie lives with them and she is far plainer, with only two outfits, both tweed. She wore a fox collar some Sundays, and the glassy eyes of the fox staring out looked quite sinister. She was in a convent, but left before taking her final vows and for reasons that remain muddied. She prays very steadfastly, eyes shut tight, and she keeps kissing her metal crucifix. Drew on the other hand looks straight ahead at the altar, as if she is perceiving some mystery in it. I try to maneuver a seat in front of her, so that I can turn round and stare at her, and take note of her little habits and how often she swallows. She blinks with such languor. Mama says that we will have a scone before setting out, as we are not certain if we are invited for eats. We might go in by the side entrance, where there is a damp path under a canopy of tarpaulin and a lawn roller that is never moved. It depends if there is somebody already looking from behind the window. My father has not been invited, so it seems that it is an occasion for ladies only. It will probably be Drew, Effie, Mama, and me. The little daughters are away at boarding school. They are twins, Colette and Cissy,

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and I am glad that they are absent, as I might be put in a separate room with them, banished from the company of the grown-ups. I will not say a word. I will not need to. Our being invited is a miracle and came about in an accidental way. The Coughlans were having a supper party. The whole parish knew about it. They were having prawn cocktail to start, then suckling pig with applesauce, followed by chocolate éclairs and cream. Rita boasted of it in the butcher’s, the hardware, and the three grocery shops. The guests were other banking people from far afield and a hunting lady separated from her husband and known as a bit of a card. Yet on the day of their supper party, calamity struck. The cream in the creamery had turned sour. It seems the vats had not been scalded properly and all the contents had to be thrown out. Rita went to the various shops and all she could get was one tin of cream, with a picture of a red carnation on the label. Mrs. Coughlan was livid. She said one does not give tinned cream to people of note and that fresh cream must be found. Rita thought of us. She knew us well and used to come the odd Saturday to help my mother, but once she went to them she did not want to know us and looked the other way if ever we met. Nevertheless, she arrived with a jug and a half a crown in her hand and Mama said coldly, “Hello stranger.” Rita said that they were in a terrible pickle, not being able to get fresh cream, and might Mama, in the goodness of her heart, help out. Mama did not say yes at once. She took Rita to task for being a turncoat and for not telling us that she would no longer come of a Saturday to scrub. Rita was very flustered, said she knew she had done wrong, that she was awake nights over it and was biting her nails. She showed her nails, which were certainly bitten down to the quick. Mama then got the white jug. It was a lovely long slender jug, with a picture of a couple in sepia, standing, modestly, side by side. There were three large pans of cream put to settle in the dairy and with the tips of her fingers, Mama skimmed the cream into the

jug. She did it perfectly, making sure that no milk got in. A separated milk was a bluish white in color, not like the butter-yellow color of the cream. She refused the money. Having been tart with Rita, she had now melted and gave her a bag of cooking apples in case they were short. We heard that the party went off wonderfully. There were four cars with different registrations parked in the street outside and a singsong after dinner. One lady guest could be heard in the public house across the road singing “There’s a bridle hanging on the wall and a saddle in a lonely stall,” screeching it, as the men in the pub attested to. Mama says I am to wear my green knitted dress with the scalloped angora edging and carry my cardigan in case it gets chilly on the way home. It is about a half a mile’s walk. She herself is going to wear her tweedex suit — a fawn, flecked with pink, one that she knitted for an entire winter. I know in her heart that she hopes the conversation will get around to the fact of her knitting it. Indeed, if it is admired, she will probably offer to knit one for Mrs. Coughlan. She is like that. Certainly she will make Drew a gift of a wallet, or a rug, as she goes to the new technical school at night to master these skills. Nothing would please her more than that they would become friends, the Coughlans coming to us and a big spread of cakes and buns and sausage rolls and caramel custards in their own individual ramekins. She says that we are not to mention anything about our lives, the geese that got stolen up by the river at Christmastime, my father’s tantrums, or above all, his drinking sprees, which blessedly have tapered off a bit. My father will insist that his supper be prepared before we leave and a kettle kept simmering on the stove, so that he can make a pot of tea. We will have put the hens and chickens in their hatches and, the evening being still bright, we are bound to have trouble in coaxing them in. Quite soon after we arrive, it will be evident whether or not there are to be refreshments. There will be a smell from the kitchen, or Rita

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bustling, or Effie going in and out to oversee things.

Monday

e went. Effie greeted us and saw us into the drawing room, where Mrs. Coughlan sat upright on a two-seater sofa with giltedged arms. She wore green georgette and a long matching scarf which swathed her neck and part of her chin. The picture instantly brought to mind was one I had seen in a book at school, featuring an English lady swathed in white robes and crossing the desert. She let out a light, brittle laugh and her hand, when it took mine, was weightless as a feather. “Such pretty ringlets,” she said, and laughed again. I was hearing her voice for the very first time, and it was like sound coming from a music box, sweet and tinkling. Turning to Mama, she said how much she had been looking forward to the visit and how terribly kind it was to give her that delicious cream. Instantly, they had a topic. They discussed whether cream should be whipped with a fork or with a beater, and they agreed that a beater in the hands of a mopey girl, no names mentioned, could lead to having a small bowl of puddiny butter. There was a fire in the room, with an embroidered screen placed in front of it. The various lit lamps had shades of wine red, with masses of a darker wine fringing. It was like a room in a story, what with the fire, the fire screen, the fenders and fire irons gleaming, and the picture above the black marble mantelpiece of a knight on horseback breaching a storm. I sat on a low leather pouffe, looking at Drew and then looking out the window at the setting sun, from which thin spokes of golden light irradiated down, then back on her, whose perfume permeated the room, and despite her bemused smile and the different and affecting swivel of hand and wrist, her eyes looked quite sad. I could not understand why she was swathed in that scarf, unless it was for glamour, as the room was quite warm. Effie was extremely nervy — she would begin a sentence but not finish it and from time to time slap herself smartly and mutter, much to the irritation of her sister. It struck me then that she probably had to leave the convent on account of her nerves. Moreover, she seemed on the verge of tears, even though she was telling us how well they had settled in, how they loved the canal and the boating, loved their walks in the wood road, and had made

W

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friends with a few people. “Hugh doesn’t love it,” Mrs. Coughlan said, adding that he was too much of a loner. This gave Mama another opening in the conversation, admitting that after she had come back from America — something she was most anxious to be let known — she too had felt herself to be an outsider. Mrs. Coughlan exclaimed and said, “But why ever did you come home?” Mama explained that she had merely come on a holiday, and had got engaged, and soon after got married. A little sigh escaped them both. Mrs. Coughlan said that Hugh would not be joining us, since he was painfully shy and a bad mixer. I expect he was in his own den doing figures, or maybe reading. She then uncrossed her legs and lifted the folds of green georgette a fraction, so that to my heart’s content I was able to see her beau-

tiful shoes. They were cloth shoes of a silver filigree, with purple thread running through the silver, and there was a glittery buckle on the instep. I could have knelt at them. Effie then excused herself, looking more teary than ever. Mama welcomed that, because I felt that she wanted to get confidential with Mrs. Coughlan and to share views about marriage, childbearing, and the change of life. “It’s not a bed of roses, by any means,” Mama starkly announced, and Mrs. Coughlan concurred. She even became a little indiscreet, said that on her wedding day three unfortunate things happened — the edge of her veiling got caught on the church railing as they posed for the photographs, the handle of the knife broke in the wedding cake as she cut it, and an old aunt swore that she saw a fat mouse move across the dining room of the hotel floor and went into hysterics. Then, casually, she mentioned that she had been married off in her twenties. I reckoned that she was about thirty-five or -six. She said that small towns were stifling and that bank

folk only talked shop. Moreover, every few years Hugh got transferred to another town, so they could never put down roots and it was all ghastly. Mama sympathized, said she had been in the same place for many years but now loved her farm, her kitchen garden, and her house, and would not be parted from them. Then she slipped in the fact that she hoped Mrs. Coughlan would feel free to call on us, whenever she wished, and this was met with tepid, absent-minded gratitude. Things were not going brilliantly. There was no ripple to it and there was no excitement. There were times when it seemed as if Mrs. Coughlan had literally floated away from us, not listening, not seeing, lost in her own worldweary reverie. A trolley was wheeled in. The china tea set was exquisite, with matching slop bowl, sugar bowl, and jug. The teapot was like a little kettle and had a cane handle. But the eats were not that thrilling. The sandwiches looked rough, obviously made by Rita, and I could swear that it was a shop cake. It had pink icing with a glacé cherry on top, not like Mama’s cakes, which were dusted with caster sugar or a soft-boiled icing that literally melted on the tongue. There were also shop biscuits. Drew urged us to tuck in, as she refrained from food and kept feeling her throat through the layers of green folded georgette. Effie’s hand trembled terribly as she passed us the cup and saucer, and Drew told her for goodness’ sake to get the nesting tables open so that we could at least have something to balance on. Wanting desperately to show gratitude, Mama said that if ever they needed cream, fresh eggs, cabbage, or cooking apples they had only to ask. Normally she was reserved but her yearning to form a friendship had made her overaccommodating. All of a sudden Drew got up and rushed to look in the oval mirror that had two candlesticks affixed to it, the white candles unlit, and unwinding the georgette scarf she sighed, saying to Effie to come and look, that the rash was much worse. Effie rushed to her, felt her glands, and said yes, that her lip had also swollen up. To our eyes there was no swelling at all, just a slightly chapped lip and a cold sore. Effie said they would ring the doctor at once, but Mrs. Coughlan tut-tutted, said that was too much of an imposition and that they would go there instead. My heart sank. Mama’s must have sunk too. Mama agreed with Effie that they should


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send for him and that he would come and bring several medicines in his doctor’s bag. Drew was adamant and told Effie to run and get her fur coatee. She kept touching her lip and her glands with her forefinger, and Mama wondered aloud if perhaps it was some allergy, that maybe she had been gardening and touched nettles or some other plant, to which there came the distinct and crisp answer of “Nouh.” Mama could not find the right thing to say. Effie was back, all solicitude, putting the coatee around her sister’s shoulders as they went out. We stood in the hall door to see them off, and Effie, who had only recently learned to drive, set out at a reckless speed. She could have killed someone. We debated as to what we should do, but the truth was we did not want to go home so early. Mama looked down at the perforated rubber mat that allowed for muck and wet to fall through and vowed that when she had a bit of money she would invest in one, so as not to be down on her knees scrubbing the kitchen floor and hall three times a week. It was not yet dark. Men were sitting on a bench across the road, drinking and talking quietly among themselves. They recognized us but did not call across, as by being in the Coughlan house we had somehow placed ourselves above them. Mama said that yes, the sitting room was nice, but it did not have a very salubrious view. It was a hushed night and there was a smell of flowers, especially night-scented stock from Mrs. McBride’s garden next door. Mrs. McBride was a fanatic gardener and was forever wheeling different pots with flowering plants onto her front porch. We had heard that there was a rift between her and the Coughlans, as both had allotments at the back of their houses and there was argument about the boundary fence — so much so that a guard had had to be called to keep the peace. We went back into the room and surprised Mr. Coughlan, who was wolfing the sandwiches. The moment he saw us he made some apologetic murmur and bolted. Mama whispered to me that there was a strong smell of drink off him and said that no one ever knew the skeletons that lurked in other people’s cupboards. She removed the fire screen and out of habit poked the fire and put a sod on it, and then she vetted the contents of the room more carefully, estimated the cost of all the furnishings, and said if sh one item it would be the tea trolley and perhaps the mirror with the lit-

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tle candelabras on either side, but that she would not give tuppence for the piano. Then, as if I were absent, she said aloud to herself that there was no swelling and no rash, and that for a woman to wish to go to the doctor at that hour of evening was fishy, decidedly fishy. “I adored her silver shoes,” I said, trying to sound grown up. “Did you, darling,” she said, but she was too busy cogitating matters such as how much did he drink, did husband and wife get on, and why were very young children in a boarding school, and why did the sister,the ex-nun, live with them. The doctor was something of a ladies’ man, and though Mama did not refer to it, it was known that he kissed young nurses in the grounds of the hospital and had taken a student nurse once to Limerick to the pictures, where they stayed canoodling for the second showing, much to the annoyance of the usherette. She conceded that though the green georgette dress and the shoes were the height of fashion, it was not the kind of attire to wear when going to a doctor. At that very moment and like a lunatic, I imagined Drew lying on the doctor’s couch, he leaning in over her, patting her lip, perhaps with iodine, she flinching, her complexion so soft, a little flushed, and how both, as in a drama, had a sudden urge to kiss each other, but did not dare to. We sat for a bit and helped ourselves to some biscuits. When they got back they showed real surprise at our being still there. I even think that Drew was irked. “Nothing serious I hope,” Mama said, and Effie flinched and said that Drew had been given an ointment and also a tonic, because she was very run-down. He had, it seems, checked her eyelids for anemia. Drew looked different, as if something thrilling had happened to her, and was gloating over the fact that the doctor and his wife were on first names with her, as if they’d all known one another for an age. It seems they had to wait in the hall as the doctor was tending to an epileptic child, and while they were waiting, his wife came through and chatted with them, offered them a sherry, and insisted that they call her Madeleine. Mama’s hopes were thus dashed. The doctor’s wife used to know us, used to visit us, which was such an honor and meant that we were people of note. Mama did things for her, like sew and knit and bake, and always kept a baby gin in a hidden draw-

er so that she could be given a tipple, unbeknownst to my father, when she came. Then she stopped coming, and much to Mama’s bewilderment – we were never given a reason, and there had been no coolness and no argument. Months later, we heard that she told the draper’s wife that our milk had a terrible smell and that she would not be visiting again. It had so happened that on one occasion when she came, the grass was very rich and hence the milk did smell somewhat strong, but being a town person she would not know the reason. Effie then said that Drew should go straight to bed, and Mama concurred and asked if we might be excused. She was too conciliatory, even though she was rattled within. “So glad you could both come,” Mrs. Coughlan said, but it lacked warmth – it was like telling us that we were dull and lusterless and that we were not people of note. “Well, now I can say I met the grand Mrs. Coughlan,” Mama said tartly as we walked home, and she repeated her old adage about old friends and new friends – when you make new friends, forget not the old, for the new ones are silver, but the old ones are gold. We were in a gloom. The grass was heavy with dew, cattle lying down, munching and wheezing. She did not warn me to lift my feet in order to preserve my white shoes, as she was much preoccupied. There was no light from the kitchen window, which signified that my father had gone up to bed and that we would have to bring him a cup of tea and humor him, as otherwise he would be testy on the morrow. I had this insatiable longing for tinned peaches, but Mama said it would be an extravagance to open a tin at that hour, while promising that we would have them some Sunday with an orange Soufflé, which she had just mastered the recipe for. Mixed in with my longing was a mounting rage. Our lives seemed so drab, so uneventful. I prayed for drastic things to occure – for bullocks to rise up and mutiny, then gore one another, for my father to die in his sleep, for our school to catch fire, and for Mr. Coughlan to take a pistol and shoot his IA wife, before shooting himself. Excerpted from the book Saints and Sinners by Edna O’Brien. Copyright © 2011 by Edna O’Brien. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 53


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Portrait of An Irish Artist:

PHOTO: PERRY OGDEN

Louis le Brocquy By Mark Axelrod

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fter seven decades of painting, Louis le Brocquy has clearly established himself as one of the 20th century’s masters. In an interview with George Morgan in 1995, Morgan asked le Brocquy to comment on whether he had achieved what he set out to achieve as a painter. Le Brocquy replied: “I once said to myself – a very long time ago when I was starting to paint, when I was trying to develop the ability to paint – that I would be very happy if I could reach the status of or be considered to be a good painter. Well, now and again along the way, I have been moved while painting and by painting to believe that I may have been granted something more, making it possible for me to


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LEFT: Sunlight in a Wood a.k.a Summer Haze, 1935, oil on canvas. FAR LEFT: Louis le Brocquy in his studio. BELOW: A Family, 1951, oil on canvas. Collection National Gallery of Ireland. BELOW CENTER: Image of W.B. Yeats, 1975, oil on canvas.

reach a little into the meaning of life.” My own introduction to the paintings of Louis le Brocquy goes back to 1978, when I was awarded an IIE scholarship to attend Exeter College, Oxford. At some point during my stay, and I can't remember exactly where, I saw a poster advertising an exhibition of works by Louis le Brocquy À la recherche de W. B. Yeats: Cent Portraits Imaginaires (In Search of W.B. Yeats: Imaginary Head Portraits) October-November 1976, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris. The exhibition was over, but I was reading Yeats' A Vision at the time and fortunately was not too late to buy the poster of Yeats, which I still possess. But even though I was taken by le Brocquy's work and his “Head Images” in particular, I had no idea who this Irish master with the French name was. As I found out, Louis le Brocquy was born in Dublin on November 10, 1916. The son of Albert le Brocquy, the honorary secretary of the Irish League of Nations Society, and Sybil (née Staunton), co-founder of Amnesty International Ireland and a noted figure within Dublin's literary circles. His family was friendly with W.B. Yeats and family, which may account for his perfervid interest in Yeats.

Le Brocquy was educated at St. Gerard's School, Co. Wicklow, and in 1934 went on to study chemistry at Kevin Street Technical School, and then Trinity College Dublin. At the same time, his childhood interest in art, particularly painting, re-emerged, and he produced two early experimental paintings, both of which were accepted for exhibition by the Royal Hibernian Academy – an impressive accomplishment for a young, selftaught amateur. According to le Brocquy's wife and biographer, Anne Madden, the summer of 1938 marked the time when le Brocquy the chemistry student first considered becoming le Brocquy the painter.

That November, subsequent to graduation from Trinity, le Brocquy left Ireland to immerse himself in studying the great European art collections of London's National Gallery, the Louvre in Paris and the Prado Collection on loan to Geneva. By 1940 he had returned to Ireland, where his work began to get attention. Throughout a career spanning over seven decades and many ground-breaking stylistic manifestations, le Brocquy has become internationally recognized as one of the foremost Irish painters of the 20th century. In 2002, his seminal 1951 work, A Family, was added to the Permanent Irish Collection of the National Gallery of Ireland, making him the first and only living artist to be included in the collection. The “Head Images” of literary figures for which he is so famous began in 1964, with portraits of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, and in 1975 he began the aforementioned series on W.B. Yeats. In 1964, le Brocquy had begun the fouth distinctive phase of his artistic career, with a series of images called Ancestral Heads. Inspired by decorated Polynesian skulls on display at Musée de l’homme in Paris, he began to consider the JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 55


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ancient Celtic preoccupation with the head. As the artist himself said, “Like the Celts I tend to regard the dead as this magic box containing the spirit. Enter that box, enter behind that billowing curtain of the face, and you have the whole landscape of the spirit.” For the next ten years, he then produced his first series of Head Images, each stemning from an aspect of Celtic mythology, history and art; each equally intent on accessing a twentiethcentury idea of the portrait – one vastly different from the fixed renderings of the Renaissance. Following a commission by Per-Olov Borjesson, a Swedish gallery owner, to contribute to an exhibition of aqua tints of Nobel Prize winners, le Brocquy commenced his Portrait Heads of important artistic figures such as Joyce, Picasso, Beckett, Shakespeare and Yeats. These were not exacting portraits drawn from life or photographs, but something more. In his 2000 publication “Notes on Painting and Awareness,” the painter wrote of his process in creating the Yeats Images displayed in that 1976 exhibition:

“I therefore tried as uncritically as I could to allow different aspects of Yeats’s head to emerge. These I recalled largely from photographs taken throughout his lifetime, and, for the most part, without referring to them directly. Where I have worked from them directly, I have consulted two or more at the same time and – since these photographs bear little consistent resemblance to each other – I have encouraged differing and sometimes contradictory images to emerge spontaneously in order, as it were, to exorcize my own rather conventional memory of Yeats and in the hope of discovering a more immediate image – stilled and free of circumstance – underlying the ever-changing aspect of this phenomenal Irishman.” Even though le Brocquy collaborated with a number of famous Irish writers, his close friendship with Beckett needs to be highlighted. Not only did Beckett and le Brocquy collaborate during the last decade of Beckett’s life on the illustrations for Beckett’s Stirrings Still (1988) and his set and costume design for Walter Asmus’s highly acclaimed production of

Waiting for Godot, but, according to Anne Madden, whose book Louis le Brocquy: Seeing His Way was published in 1993 by Gill & Macmillan, “Sam bore up nobly when confronted with the artist’s reconstructions of his handsome creviced face, his pale piercing eyes. He chuckled as Louis told him of Francis Bacon’s reservations when he viewed his own image in the gallery before the opening. Notwithstanding Bacon’s declared admiration of Louis’ images of Yeats, Joyce and Lorca and his initial enthusiasm in a letter to Louis: “‘I am very flattered you have included me amongst your portraits.’” Commenting on le Brocquy’s work in a letter to the artist, Jean-François Jaeger, director of the Galerie Jeanne-Bucher in Paris, wrote, “I myself feel happier in contemplating the intense image of Joyce or those rather sharper images of Beckett than I am before the Fellini-like portraits of Bacon, even when the latter are utterly true and of such power and refinement in their sensuality as to create an impression of positively sharing in the discovery of

“I once said to myself – a very long time ago when I was starting to paint, when I to paint – that I would be very happy if I could reach 56 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

was the s


en I each

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FAR LEFT: Young Woman (detail) from the Ancestral Heads series. 1968, oil on canvas. SECOND LEFT: Image of Francis Bacon (detail) 1979, oil on canvas. LEFT: Image of Samuel Beckett (detail) 1979, oil on canvas. BELOW: Image of Seamus Heaney (detail) 1994, watercolor.

Bacon by himself, in the act of becoming Bacon.” Le Brocquy’s allusions to his Irish-born contemporary are not serendipitous. According to le Brocquy’s son Pierre, “My father met Francis Bacon in London in 1954 forming a lifelong friendship. When my father left London in 1958 to live in France they both always kept in touch, regularly corresponding or visiting each other’s shows in Paris or London. Their friendship was based on a mutual interest in each other’s work.” As the art critic Dorothy Walker noted: “The period of the fifties, not only in London but all over the Western world, was a period of abstract painting, of saturation tachisme or abstract expressionism when figurative painting was totally out of fashion and for the first time le Brocquy as an artist began to experience something of the isolation of his subjects. But he pursued his own preoccupation, as Francis Bacon did his, and their continued isolation as figurative painters in an abstract world no doubt helped to strengthen their interest in each other’s work.”

In 1966, Bacon wrote of le Brocquy’s work: “Louis le Brocquy belongs to a category of artists who have always existed – obsessed by figuration outside and on the other side of illustration – who are aware of the vast and potent possibilities of inventing ways by which fact and appearance can be reconjugated.” Ultimately, there is a deep, almost collective unconsciousness at work among le Brocquy, Bacon and Beckett. It is almost as if these artistic contemporaries arrived at the same place at the same time, and while their individual styles were uniquely their own, the expression of those styles was very similar. But there is something uniquely poetic about le Brocquy’s work. As Seamus Heaney has written in “Louis le Brocquy’s Heads,” “Osip Mandelstam, in his extraordinary Conversation about Dante, says: ‘A quotation is not an excerpt. A quotation is a cicada. Its natural state is that of unceasing sound. Having once seized hold of the air, it will not let it go…’Louis le Brocquy’s heads are in this way quotations from bodies,

was trying to develop the ability the status of or be considered to be a good painter.”

from lives even. We have no sense of them orphaned from their supporting frames or times. They take hold of the air; they probe it with a deep pure stare. The lyric poem has been called ‘a way of putting it’ and ‘a momentary stay.’ There is an element of the accidental about it as well as a sense of inevitability. It is as much a result of the poet’s language generating itself as of the poet expressing himself. So it is altogether proper that Louis le Brocquy’s images of poets should stand in relation to their poems, because these images also take delight in caging the moment, staying the accident.” What struck me then, as now, about le Brocquy’s work is a kind of vacant majesty in the Head Portraits and though I bought the Yeats’ poster, I think it was the Beckett poster that was most engaging for me, how Beckett’s work tends to coincide with le Brocquy’s. As Deirdre Bair wrote in Samuel Beckett: A Biography, “Beckett, while still in his twenties, expressed…awareness of the new thing that has happened, namely the breakdown of the object, [the] rupture of the lines of communication...and the space which intervenes between [the artist] and the world of objects.” One can say the same thing about le IA Brocquy’s head images. JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 57


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PHOTO: SARAH SHATZ

Meghan O’Rourke on

Writing Through Grief Interview by Sheila Langan

Meghan O’Rourke’s accomplishments

are many. A graduate of Yale, she was a fiction/nonfiction editor at The New Yorker at the age of 24, one of the youngest editors in the history of the magazine. She then became culture editor and literary critic for Slate, a poetry editor of The Paris Review from 2005-2010, and published a collection of poems, Halflife, in 2007, to critical acclaim and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. The Long Goodbye, her first book of prose, was published on April 14th. As eloquent and thoughtful as it is brave, The Long Goodbye is O’Rourke’s reflection on her mother’s battle with cancer and the strange, difficult months following her death. O’Rourke’s taxingly honest account of her experience of grief transcends the category of memoir as, in addition to sharing her personal story, she turns her critic’s eye to the question of what it means to lose someone and to grieve that loss in today’s culture. Far from scholarly or staid, this is criticism of the most personal kind, and it is both heartbreaking and illuminating to read about

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how she tried to make sense of things. In a recent phone interview, I asked Meghan about the experience of writing something so personal and her call for change in our language for grief. It’s a very brave and important thing you have done by writing this book. How did you begin writing The Long Goodbye? It began in a couple of different ways. In one sense I began without even knowing I was beginning. Right before my mother died, I would find myself coming back from doctor appointments and writing down what had happened, just as a way of trying to create some illusory order and understanding. But those were more-so notes to myself, more of a journal that I was keeping for myself. I really began writing it after my mother died. I was behind on my columns for Slate, where I was working at the time. I was trying to write about something else and I just couldn’t focus, which is one thing that many bereaved people experience: a lack of concentration, a difficulty working. So I told my editor, “I just don’t know that I

can work on this piece.” All I could do was think about grief. And she said ‘Well, why don’t you try writing about that?’ And I remember I thought, well, this is such a personal experience, why would anyone want to hear about my loss? But I also realized, as she talked more about it, that this was not something I had seen described in a lot of places. So I thought, well, maybe there is something there and I started to write. When I was about 7 or 8 [columns] in, I realized that I really hadn’t exhausted my interest in the topic, and I started to get a lot of responses from readers. I became aware of a hunger for discussion of what grief was actually like in the moment rather than reflected upon later – what it really felt like, what the strange crevices and crannies were, and the difficulties of being kind of adrift in a culture that doesn’t have, necessarily, a lot of support built into it. The other thing I found was that, for me, the act of writing was a weird transformation. I had always been a writer and found writing as a way of ordering the world, but that act of transformation


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became a work tool, one that almost functioned like other people’s rituals [for grieving] might have. And it was that that made me want to keep writing. O’Rourke and Kelly – those are two very Irish last names that you have. Well, both my mother’s family and father’s family are Irish and, as they liked to tell us when we were growing up, we are all Irish. Both sides are Irish and Irish American, going all the way back. My mother’s family was the Kellys and the Flahertys. [My parents] both grew up in large Irish Catholic families in New Jersey and gave us all Irish names: Liam, Eamon and Meghan. There was always a strong sense of Irish pride. I actually spent half a year in Ireland in college, in Dublin.

more – and I think this is something any writer would say – it really became private again. Even though I knew it was going to be published, that knowledge seemed extremely theoretical. The primary impulse was to get something down on the page, as if it would help me understand. I only really began to think about the question of readers after I had written a draft and started to go back over things that were repetitive or not clear. So there was kind of a layering process, but there’s a lot in it that came

Where did you study? (Laughs) I didn’t study, actually! I hung out and worked in a vegetarian restaurant called Claire’s Cornucopia, which is right off Grafton Street. I worked there for six months and it was horrible, it was the hardest work I’ve ever done. In fact, when I was writing [The Long Goodbye], I kept thinking about that, saying “You think writing a book is hard? No, working at Claire’s Cornucopia was hard!” My father’s family has roots in Sligo and Dromahair and I think my great-grandfather on his side came from Killarney. My mother’s family came from the area just north of Dublin. I read the review of Roland Barthes’ Mourning Diary you did for Slate, and found it so interesting that, since those are his personal notes, published posthumously, they weren’t really intended for an audience, they were just things that he had written for himself following his mother’s death.Your work also started off as your own personal journal writings.What changed between writing for yourself and writing something that you knew other people were going to read? Well, once I started writing the pieces for Slate I was very aware that other people were going to read them, so I felt that there was an obligation to try to be communicative in a way that would also honor the strange impossibilities of communicating things like this. But then once I actually began writing the book and I wasn’t publishing the pieces on Slate any-

from a very private place. I think that’s important. I don’t think you can totally write about grief unless you are writing from a private place. What I also loved about the Barthes book was that it captured the kind of fractured-ness of things, which [for me] was harder to preserve in the final book but was very much in the original draft. What was it like to go back and revise something so personal? A little strange – I would say that was the hardest part. While I was writing the book people kept going ‘This must be so hard.” There was this really interesting underlying assumption that it was morbid or dark or hard for me to be doing it, whereas, for me, to be doing this was so great. And I know that must sound really weird because of what the subject is, but I

was already in this place, I was already mourning my mother and thinking about her all the time, so it gave me a way to do that constructively. It didn’t feel bad to write this book, but having to revise it, when the first act of writing it down had been so, you know, necessary, intuitive and organic, going back over it again to revise certain themes, or a couple of scenes where I felt I hadn’t gone deeply enough into the emotions, that was harder because it was much more cerebral Throughout the book, you also share and go back to the many texts that you read: poetry, Buddhist texts, clinical studies, C.S. Lewis – what made you gravitate towards the works that you did? I was really just looking around for texts to help. I had always read as a way of understanding the world; it’s through reading that the world makes sense to me…But one thing that happens after loss, is people want to help you. And one way that they try is to say “There’s a book that helped me.” So a lot of the books were recommended to me. With the clinical studies, it was really just Google. I literally went running to Google “grief” and started to read. And then I Googled “grief and clinical studies.” Even though I distrusted, in some senses, studying grief, I also was very curious to know what scientists said. Elizabeth Kubler Ross [who proposed the five stages of grief] was someone whose work I already knew. People kept mentioning the five stages to me, so I felt I should go back to that. As I say in the book, I really wasn’t experiencing the five stages in the way you’re supposed to and I wondered whether that was normal. And then with Hamlet, I remember a guy friend was talking about it and I just said “Oh, Hamlet, I really want to re-read that.” So there was something kind of bumbling and random about it. At one point I did think to myself, I need to study grief because I’m writing a book about it.’But I found that when I tried to read specific things and put them into the book, it didn’t really work; it felt off. I realized that if this was going to be the book I wanted it to be, it had to be a really organic record of my grieving. I had to forget that I was writing a book and I had to just transmit the experience I was actually having, what I was actually interested in, not what I thought I should be reading. JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 59


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What you say about language is interesting. Even our language for sympathy places so much emphasis on the positive, on progress: “I hope you are doing well;” “I hope you’re feeling better,” for example. That isn’t always what someone needs to hear. Yeah, it’s funny. I think one reason we’re silent about grief is that we imagine

PHOTO: AGATON STRON

You also have a lot to say about the marginalization of death and loss in our culture and the lack of language and rituals to express them. Why do you think this has happened? I feel honestly that it is very complicated, so I don’t want to over simplify that or opine, but there are all sorts of sociological reasons. In the 20th century our world,

Meghan, right, with her mother, Barbara Kelly O’Rourke, in 2007.

our lives, really changed...While death is a constant, our attitudes and our thoughts about it are not, naturally. As various critics and scholars have said, death kind of became silent for a period in England and America, especially because we just didn’t see it around us that much: People began to die in hospital. Instead of having the big Irish wake in your own home, you have it in a funeral parlor. There are all these ways that it gets distanced. Once you lose that language of shared community ritual, you have to talk about your loss with words rather than having something you can do together with your friends and family that observes the loss. My family is Irish Catholic, but I wasn’t raised Irish Catholic and we’re not surrounded by our family. The people I work with and all my friends, they don’t’ necessarily have the rituals I have, and that creates a kind of difficulty. There’s no shared language, no idea that we should say X or Y, or do X or Y together. I think that memoirs like this really come out of people wanting to find a public space to talk about loss, and in some ways I feel this book is less of a traditional memoir in the “It happened to me” sense and more of a “This happens to all of us and here is my particular record of it.”

it to be the worst possible thing in the world. When we haven’t experienced it, we’re very fearful of it. I was very fearful, really scared, to think about what it would be like when my mother died. And it was awful, it was completely awful, but it also was survivable. We know that people in general are very resilient, so there’s a kind of paradox. On the one hand, it was really terrible, but, on the other hand, I survived, my family survived, we have joy in our lives, we have many things we love. I think that the language that surrounds grief comes from the fearfulness. People are scared to let mourners just express and experience their emotions. Part of what I wanted to do with the book is show that it is really painful, but it doesn’t have to be terrifying, and that if we look at it more squarely in the face, maybe we’ll find a better language for sympathy. My friends really wanted me to feel better, so that’s why they would say “you’re going to feel better soon.” But in the moment, and I think many bereaved people will understand this, I felt like “I don’t’ want to move right to feeling better. My mother died and I really care about her and I want to spend time honoring that loss rather than being told I’m going to feel better.”

Do you think anything can be done to make talking about death easier? Writing books like yours is a good start. Yes, it is very much my hope that this book will be helpful on some level, for mourners – for everybody, for my friends who didn’t know how to talk to me about what I was going through...Starting a national conversation about grief is very important, especially at a time of war. We need to be a little more open to the idea of grief. What I’m really interested in is the idea of letting people grieve, letting them have their grief and understanding that that’s OK. I think that if we can come to that place by talking about it openly, that would make a real difference. You are also a poet – your previous book was a collection of poems.Why did you choose to move from poetry to prose for this? That’s a great question. I just didn’t know how to write about it in poetry. It seemed to me that it was necessarily kind of meditative. The things I was thinking about were things I had to think about in prose because they had to do with interactions with other people; they had, in a way, to do with narrative and a failure of narrative. Sometimes you’re trying to create a narrative for something and you just can’t. The kind of poetry I write and I’m drawn to is not narrative, but lyric: about a lyric moment, or capturing an evasive feeling or an image. I felt that this was about time in a much different way. I tried to write poems about my mom’s death after she died and I really couldn’t at first, because there is something so open about poetry. I just kept losing the thread. It was too scary, too emotional, like going into a well. Whereas with prose, I had the through line of the sentence, which became a tightrope that I could hold on to on the path. Were there any Irish books, authors, or poets you gravitated towards? Oh, God yes. Yeats, I read a lot of Yeats. On the two-year anniversary of my mother’s death we read a Yeats poem, “A Prayer for My Daughter.” I read some Seamus Heaney poems about his dad, [Death of a Naturalist]. I re-read James Joyce’s The Dead. That image of snow blanketing the world, that to me felt like a beautiful image of what it felt like to be grieving: a kind of stillness everywhere and a kind of transformation. IA

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{what are you like?} By Patricia Harty

Bill Whelan Renowned composer, producer and arranger Bill Whelan has worked extensively in theatre, film and television.The Limerick native has produced and arranged for Irish rock legends U2, Van Morrison, the Dubliners, Richard Harris and Kate Bush. He boasts an impressive resume beginning with his position as composer to the W. B.Yeats International Theatre Festival at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 1989.With an extensive theatrical career, his adaptation of HMS Pinafore received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination. His compositional work in film includes Dancing at Lughnasa, Some Mother’s Son and Lamb. “The Seville Suite” was commissioned for Expo ’92 in Seville and “The Spirit of Mayo” followed in 1993. “The Connemara Suite,” a trilogy of pieces written for chamber orchestra, premiered at Carnegie Hall in March 2005. Shortly after the world stopped to take notice of his work in Riverdance, Bill was honored with the 1997 Grammy Award for “Best Musical Show Album” for his Riverdance record. Bill is on the boards of Berklee School of Music in Boston, University of Limerick, the recently established music education body Music Generation, and was recently one of the first two artists to be inducted into the new IMRO (Irish Music Rights Organisation) Academy. He is currently hard at work on a new theatre project, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center in New York.

Your earliest memory

Your favorite quality in friends

Playing a biscuit-tin with two knives as drumsticks while my dad played the harmonica.

That they stay alive.

Your perfect day

Scroll for the Freedom of Limerick.

Walking the roads of Connemara followed by a pint and good food.

Your favorite extravagance

Prized possession Accomplishment you’re most proud of My four children.

Ten-year tickets for Thomond Park.

Favorite writer

What’s on your bedside table

No “favorites,” but I am really enjoying There Are Little Kingdoms by Kevin Barry at the moment.

My Internet radio.

Your hidden talent Baking brown bread.

Movie that you will watch again and again The Lives of Others.

Best opening line in a book “All happy families are alike: each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

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Musician you’d love to work with Steve Gadd.

Favorite hero in real life Peter McVerry SJ.

Traditional seisiun or chamber orchestra? Depends on the mood and the music...

What are you working on now? Trying to answer these questions.


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{music} By Tara Dougherty

The Impossibly Talented

Julie Feeney The Irish chamber-pop princess talks with Tara Dougherty about her recent world tour, her second album and her innovative sound, which is breathing life into the contemporary Irish music scene.

T

he first rounds of touring in foreign countries are daunting enough, but when an artist like Julie Feeney does it, there is an entirely different set of concerns other than those of the typical four-piece band. As I spoke to Feeney, she was in California, having just played in Los Angeles, and was on her way north. The Galway-born singer/composer told me about the gorgeous view of the marina as well as her many challenges as an upand-coming musician on the world stage. During our conversation, two things struck me about Feeney. The first was her humility. “We played Los Angeles last night,” she said, quickly followed by, “I can’t believe I’m actually saying that!” The second was her grace and spontaneity in facing the great challenge of touring with a style of music that requires slightly more than the typical guitar and bass. Feeney tows along with her any combination of harp, trumpet, strings, piano and more on her tours. “Classically trained” does not even begin to sum up Feeney’s education. A former professional choral singer, she has composed for contemporary dance pieces, taught music at university levels and was recently commissioned to compose an opera. Feeney’s compositions breathe life into concert halls, churches and rock clubs across Ireland and now America. Incorporating the use of classical instruments, Feeney released her second pop album, pages, in the States in May. Feeney dismisses the description “chamber art pop” and rightly so, as it suggests rigidity or pretension. Nothing could be less true about pages. It is invit64 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

ing, warm and nails the aura that Feeney strived for it to encapsulate. Feeney was inspired by a certain change in her attitude, in her experience of things. “I just felt this thing, I wanted

to communicate this comfort, this grace,” she explained. “It sounds strange, it was almost a spiritual feeling... nothing bothered me and things that would annoy me didn’t actually annoy me… I felt very compassionate.” That moment of clarity led Feeney to compose pages with the intention of communicating that feeling of comfort. Pages is the Andy Warhol of pop albums, the face of old tradition with a smirk of new ideas. Feeney’s eccentric creativity extends to the visual aspect of her videos and shows. A lover of headpieces, Feeney frequently wears a hat resembling

a house during live performances. Why? It completes the Wonderland feel of her whimsical album. “It recreates the kind of magical world that I wanted to create in pages the album. That kind of fairytale thing,” Feeney said. “I like to go into an enchanted place if I can and definitely wearing a headpiece helps me get there. They’re beautiful as well.” Feeney was elated when famed designer Piers Atkinson offered several of his pieces to be featured in the music video for Feeney’s infectious single “Impossibly Beautiful.” While the headpieces are a fun and fanciful addition to the live performances, anyone who has seen Feeney will tell you the house on her head often takes a backseat to the fascinating instrumentation, which varies tour to tour. Feeney talked about the challenges of translating the complex and intricate pages into a live touring act. “Every single show I would re-orchestrate the parts and then depending on budget and depending on availability [of the musicians] I would change it.” Feeney has also experimented with playing these massive orchestral pieces with just herself and harpist Cormac De Bara. “We did a lot of shows in Ireland like that, I wanted to experiment. Now I have lots of different versions of the show. I have one that has three strings, a trumpet and a singer. Or two strings, a harp, a trumpet and a singer…” and the list goes on. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh wow, the amount of work you put into your shows, could you not make it easier?’ But it’s much more fun that way, it’s very challenging. I definitely find that


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Julie Feeney performing at Electric Picnic, one of Ireland’s biggest music festivals.

your orchestration and arranging skills get really quick. One of the players might say to me ‘Do you want me to sing that down after?’ and I say, ‘No, no because it’ll mess up the inversion.’ It might seem like a good idea but I’m thinking of the whole harmony.” Feeney always seems to be thinking of the whole harmony. She has her hands in every aspect of her tours. She enjoys the adventure of being in foreign countries, of finding her way to the show and everyone in her team pitches in. “When we’re all there I might say ‘OK guys, Siobhan couldn’t be here or Lena couldn’t be here so we need to find out where we’re going.’ And that can be great fun because everyone mucks in and helps out. Jenny is off hiring cello and guitar and everybody is really involved in it all. It’s not clinical it’s actually very real and tangible. “It’s not like when you’re touring with some group and you’re completely like a robot and you know it’s a big organization

and you’re just slotting in. That’s not the most fulfilling existence, I much prefer when it’s a bit hard.” Feeney also remarked on her excitement in touring America and its similarities to Ireland. “Irish audiences have that spark – there’s an energy there and that’s the same with the Americans.” From an early age, attending boarding schools in rural Galway, Feeney was enthralled by music. When the decision came to record her debut album, 13 songs, she decided to do so without the help or wallets of record labels. When I ask her about the daunting task of creating her first and second albums totally independently, her response was immediate: “Scary as hell but I loved the exhilaration.” Among her most intimidating moments was during the recording of pages. ”I had

the Irish chamber orchestra who are one of Europe’s top orchestras, absolutely an amazing orchestra, the strings are just fantastic. I knew that I was going to be presenting my music that nobody else had ever heard but me to the Irish Chamber Orchestra and I was going to be conducting them. And that was absolutely, totally scary. I had one person come over and I just looked over at him and I just said, ‘Can you just please tell me that I’m not deluding myself? Is this presentable?’ And he’s an experienced orchestrator and he said ‘Oh course, you’re absolutely fine.’ But when you’re working on your own, you don’t know if it’s any good.” Even with the clout Feeney had with her musical background, any artist facing the task of writing and recording independently faces a huge risk both financially and creatively. “The first [album] was completely self-funded, I took out loans and all kinds of things. For both albums I have borrowed lots and lots of money. I’ve never taken out a mortgage; I’ve never bought a car. Anytime I’ve ever taken a loan out it’s been for my music, which is kind of phenomenal actually. I’ve gone into debt for both albums… If you really love it, you will put your neck on the line. There’s always a huge element of fear. It’s not that I like to torture myself but something erupts inside you and you will do whatever, you’ll put your neck on the line for it to happen. You can get caught up in what other people are doing and what other people got that you didn’t get but I think if you can put your neck on the line then you’ll know. You won’t even be looking around at anyone else. I’ve had that on both albums.” Despite her ever-busy schedule, Feeney’s mind was already on her third album. She knows the title of the album and she knows the vibe she wants to express – neither of which she would share. “One of my best friends was like ‘Can you please tell me?’” she laughed, “and I said, ‘No I actually can’t tell anybody…It’s not a superstitious thing but it has to form in my head first. But I actually do, I know exactly what it’s going to be.” IA For her albums, 13 songs and pages, and for tour dates, visit juliefeeney.com. JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 65


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Diary

Four young American dancers from the Inishfree School, NY, share their diary entries from the days leading up to the World Irish Dancing Championships in Dublin this past April. Paige Turilli Age 14 Pearl River, NY

April 15th I left New York for Ireland today. I fell asleep for most of the plane ride after watching a movie. April 16th I arrived in Dublin Airport early this morning. My dad and I rented a car and drove to Citywest Hotel where we are staying. After taking a short nap, we went to the Dundrum Shopping Rockets.We ate at a place called Eddie Rockets, just like the restaurant Johnny Rockets. Afterwards I went to practice with Sean and Colleen, the Inishfree teachers. April 17th I watched some of the competitions and then I went to a practice studio that I rented for an hour. April 18th It is the day before I dance.The President of Ireland came to the competition and a parade of champions was put on with the previous day’s winners.While the president was here, I was able to practice on the stage that I am going to dance on tomorrow. April 19th I am dancing today. I know that all I can do is go out and dance my best and put on a show for everyone in the audience. Note: Paige placed 1st in her age group for the 2nd year in a row. 66 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

Matt Dougherty Age 13 • Yorktown, NY

3/19/11 The “March Madness” is over as of tonight. Inishfree dancers have danced at dozens of St. Patrick’s Day events all around the NYC area for the past few weeks and it has been crazy. Now we can focus on our steps for World’s! Since Easter was early last year, it was harder to get ready for World’s (in Scotland in March 2010) and do shows all of the time. This year we have 4 weeks between March Madness and World’s. 3/27/11 Big Apple Feis in Manhattan. This is a big “tune up” feis for World’s. Almost every good dancer from the Mid-Atlantic region is competing. There was a boy from Canada competing, too. He placed 2nd, so I guess we’ll see him at World’s. Ashleigh Hopkins from Inishfree in Texas flew in just for the feis! 3/28/11 Monday class in Woodlawn. That was painful! 5 steps at a time, twice for the jig. Then we did our set pieces two times in a row. Colleen is trying to help us build up our stamina. I am dreading Thursday because we are going to do 6 steps! Now you know that World’s are coming up. 3/31/11 Hard class but fun. Everyone is getting excited. We are sharing bags of Vitamin C drops so that no one ends up with a cold for the competition. Most of us are going to 4 classes a week now…and practicing on our own the other days. 4/4/11 Four classes this week. I hope I don’t have too much school work. Since I’ll be missing 4 days of school, I have to take assignments and books to Ireland with me. 4/9/11 My sister ruptured her ACL playing soccer today. She was supposed to meet us in Dublin. I hope she still can. None of us has ever been to Ireland. 4/11/11 Two more classes until World’s! We leave on Thursday for Dublin. My mom altered my vest tonight and we did the final check on costume, socks, shoes and the bag full of “might needs” like safety pins, shoe polish, moleskin and band-aids for blisters, etc. 4/14/11 Just arrived at the airport. There are many other dancers on our flight. You can tell by the dress bags. I am really excited yet nervous at the same time. We saw the Morrisseys from our school. Sarah is dancing in her first World’s, but she is more excited to visit her cousins who have a new Shetland pony foal that is only about a foot tall!


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Dance Mary Kate DiChiara 4/15/11 On the plane. I didn’t get much sleep. Just arrived in Ireland. One of the heads of the Irish Dance Commission just greeted us at the airport and directed us to a bus that will bring us right to Citywest. I can tell that my mom is relieved that she doesn’t have to get a cab. 4/15/11 After a nap, we explored Citywest. It is a huge hotel with a golf course. We tried to go into the main venue, but a security guard said that no one is allowed in there until Sunday. There will be 3 stages, one in the big arena, one upstairs in the arena building and one in a different building. The hotel supposedly has more rooms than any other hotel in Europe! It has a pub, a restaurant, and a dining room with buffets for breakfast and dinner. There is a health club with a pool, but we’re not supposed to swim before we dance. My teacher, Sean, ran a practice for the 5 of us that are here for the first two days of competition.We met up with some other dancers from our school for an early dinner. Everyone is pretty tired. Some dancers are going to visit family in Ireland tomorrow. We are planning to go into the city of Dublin. 4/16/11 Last night at dinner, we learned that my friend Lauren and her mom also wanted to go into Dublin today, so we went together. Our cabbie was really nice and knew a lot about the area. He assumed that Lauren was a dancer, but didn’t guess that I was. We took a double-decker bus tour and saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Dublin is a cool old city! We saw a band of kids set up on a plaza playing music on Grafton Street. They asked if anyone in the crowd knew how to dance, so Lauren and I did a few steps for the crowd in the middle of Dublin! There were many amazing street performers that we wouldn’t get to see in New York. We had a beautiful sunny day so we walked a lot…so much that I fell asleep on the ride back to Citywest. Sean and Colleen ran another practice, and this time there were 9 of us. We practiced for 1 hour and then we had dinner and went to the arcade that was set up for World’s. 4/17/11 The competitions start today with the youngest age groups. Eamon and Sarah are dancing from our school. We went to Palm Sunday mass at a little church, St. Mary’s, in Saggert. We saw dancers from Australia, Ireland, England, and the U.S. there! You could tell who was in Saggert for World’s because we all walked back and forth from Citywest to the town. We have another sunny, warm day. Not sure why my mom packed so many layers and hats, gloves and umbrellas! My mom and Mrs. Walsh want to go back into Dublin to see some more sights, but Lauren and I decided to stay and watch the competitions. Eamon recalled but Sarah did not. On two of the floors at the main arena building there are huge halls with vendors set up. They are selling dance shoes, socks, Continues on page 68 Innisfree dancers (Matt, second from the right) performing at a New Jersey Nets Basketball game on St. Patrick’s Day.

Age 14 • Croton, NY In nursery school, my class put on a St. Patrick’s Day show and we all learned and performed a jig.The teacher told my mother I was a natural and that she should look into Irish dance for me. 10 years later...I'm still at it! I love dance so much and love to perform in front of people. I am really looking forward to dancing in the girls under 15 competition, one of the biggest and toughest competitions.

Tuesday April 12, 2011:Went to my last Tuesday class before World’s! Getting excited, only 6 more days! Wednesday April 13: No class tonight, but practiced 3 hours on my own! Getting a little stressed with school work (have to make up for missing 3 days of school) and flying out tomorrow night! Thursday April 14: Leaving for World’s tonight! Can’t wait to get there! Friday April 15: Finally arrived in Dublin! Not that nervous actually, more excited to perform on the big stage! Practiced today by the Liffey river! Saturday April 16:Very tired, guess I have jet lag. Only 3 days until I dance! Practicing at 5 with Colleen and Sean. Sunday April 17: Starting to sink in that I’m actually here at World’s! I’ve been dancing ten years for this and it’s finally paid off! I’ve been working so hard and I hope I do good! Practiced again. Monday April 18: Dancing tomorrow. This is INSANE! There are so many people here at the hotel! Michael Flatley showed up to the awards ceremony! I really don’t feel nervous, I’m just so excited to be up on stage and dancing! Had my final practice today! Hope I can get some sleep tonight...have to be up at 5:30 tomorrow! Tuesday April 19:Wow...what a day! It was a lot of fun meeting people backstage from around the world as we waited on line to dance. Leaving tomorrow . Have a couple of days off and then back to work for nationals in 72 days! So happy for Paige! I was pleased with how I danced, hopefully I’ll be off to Belfast next year! JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 67


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costumes, wigs, personalized t-shirts and sweatshirts, chocolates, jewelry and food. They were also showing a clip of the new movie JIG which was filmed at last year’s World’s in Glasgow, Scotland. At the vendor area, we bought the program which lists all of the dancers and their competitions. We checked the rotation for my competition and it turns out that I am dancing with a boy that won 2nd place last year at World’s. I am worried. We had another practice before results. Results started with a cool band of 6 drummers. Then they honored Marie Duffy, who has helped run dance competitions, feissana and oireachtas, for 40 years. Michael Flatley showed up to honor Mary too! We stayed until the results were announced for Eamon’s age group. He placed 15th!! My mom made me leave then because I wasn’t feeling great. She just brought some dinner to me in the room and I got to sleep early.

4/18/11 Not feeling well on Monday morning when I wake up, but I’m dancing in about 3 hours so I suck it up. 7:15am We meet at the stage and warm up. They gave each dancer a certificate and a patch with the “World Irish Dancing Championships Dublin 2011” patch, which is really nice. I ended up dancing both rounds with just me and the #2 dancer. My teachers said I danced well

and that I deserved a recall, but we’ll see. 10am We have to wait hours before they will announce recalls. We watch the opening ceremonies with three tenors, dancers and the President of Ireland! 1pm They just announced recalls and I didn’t recall. Since my sister, aunt and grandmother arrived this morning in Dublin, we didn’t stay to watch the rest of the competitions. We grabbed a cab into Dublin and met up with them to start a 4-day CIE “Taste of Ireland” tour: They took us around Dublin, but I fell asleep – partly because I already saw the sights of Dublin and partly because competing is pretty draining. We went to “The Merry Ploughboys” pub for dinner with the tour group. They asked for dancers to join them on stage. I met a girl named Jessie from Canada and we danced on stage! I received a text from my teacher that I was one away from recalling by only 2.5 points! A heartbreaker but at least I came really close…and I still get to see some sights in Ireland!

4/19/11-4/21/11 We toured through Tipperary; saw the Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, the Ring of Kerry, Bunratty Castle and the Cliffs of Moher. We have had amazing weather! I can’t stop dancing because I am in the habit of practicing so much. My sister keeps telling me to stop! Along the way, I was able to go on the Inishfree web site to check how dancers were doing back in Dublin. In my competition, Conor Reagan placed 5th and was on the podium! Connor Sullivan placed 12th. In the next age group, Liam McMahon placed 10th! Paige Turilli placed 1st for the second year in a row. She is amazing! Heather Hanson placed 29th; Morgan Murray placed 13th; Kellyanne Farrell placed 35th; and Janie Turek placed 18th. Sean Sanders recalled, but I am not sure what place he got. Ashleigh IA Hopkins from Inishfree in Texas placed 22nd!

Lauren Walsh age: 13 • Monroe, NY

Tuesday, April 12 Today was our last soft shoe class before World Championships in Dublin, Ireland.This is my first time competing at World’s and I am extremely nervous. I have competed overseas majors before like the All Ireland Irish Dancing Championships but never World’s. I don’t know what to expect. Every dancer works so hard to do well at World’s.We all practice very hard every single day. Every dancer wants that world title. Wednesday, April 13 Today is the day before I leave for World’s. Everything in my house is very hectic right now, packing and organizing my dance equipment. I have to make sure everything I need to dance with is packed, including my dress. I am supposed to be getting a new dress in Ireland. I am very nervous to see what it looks like.Tonight I have to make sure I practice, but not too hard. I don’t want to injure myself right before World’s.

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Thursday, April 14 Today I am leaving for JFK Airport. I am so excited for World’s but very nervous! I am just happy that I made it to Ireland! A very small, select amount of dancers compete at World’s and I’m happy to be one of them. Friday, April 15 I finally arrived in Ireland.The past day was chaotic, but I’m here in Dublin and my focus is dance. I am so tired – I’m not used to Irish time yet! Later I have to practice with any other Inishfree dancer that has arrived. Saturday, April 16 I’m starting to get nervous about dancing on Monday. So many thoughts are crossing my mind. I’m worried something will go wrong when I’m on stage. Based on my dancing I am very confident. It all depends on the day though. Everybody has worked so hard to be

here, and if one thing goes wrong to affect your results, it is such a disappointment. Sunday, April 17 Today is the day before I dance.Today is also the start of all the competitions. I know a few people who are competing today, and I want to go and watch. I always try to support my friends with their dancing and I make sure I go watch them. Inishfree is one big team one big family. We are always there for each other. Before I went to bed early, I stopped at the awards ceremony to see how everyone did. there I saw Michael Flatley, “The Lord of the Dance.” I left awards to go pick up my new dress. I was relieved to see it, it was beautiful. Monday, April 18 Today is the day I dance. Right now it is 5:30 am and I am getting ready to meet my teacher in my ballroom to do my wig and makeup. I’m ervous but so excited!

For more photos from the World’s event, go to www.irishamerica.com


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{Arts}

ntering “Ireland-America: The Ties that Bind,” housed in Lincoln Center, one of New York City’s finest arenas for the arts, it is easy to get overwhelmed. We’re dealing with more than two centuries of performing arts history, after all. A television screen is on the right; posters and display cabinets are straight ahead; a sign describing the exhibition is just to the left; a playing fiddle and the sounds of feet tapping in tune can be heard. Head to the television and sit on the bench. The next 18 or so minutes will be thrilling as a video reel plays a variety of clips, including Michael Flatley performing in Lord of the Dance, a short interview with Liam Neeson, and a clip of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in a 1974 production of Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Past the television, the gallery opens into its first and largest section, “Performing Ireland, Becoming American.” Showcasing Irish-American stage performances since the 1800s, the space is brimming with broadsides, lithographs, programs, posters and more. The best way to see the exhibits is to crisscross the room. The walls are adorned: a poster for a production of Dion Boucicault’s The Shaughran, another for

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MULLIGAN

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Kristin Romano explores the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’ stunning exhibition chronicling over 200 years of cultural bonds between the two countries.

MCNULTY COLLECTION, ARCHIVES OF IRISH AMERICA, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY.

Inside ‘Ireland-America:

IVES OF TION, ARCH ERSITY. Y COLLEC IV MOLONE YORK UN W NE A, IC IRISH AMER

Da by Hugh Leonard. Between the framed posters hangs a QR, or Quick Response, code. Anyone with a smart phone can use a QR code reader to decode the information, including special messages from Irish actors. Dispersed throughout the gallery, the QR codes really show spectators (at least, the smart-phone-equiped spectators) a new way to experience an exhibition. Nearby, another television monitor shows a continuous video of scenes from Irish plays performed in America, including Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come, (1994 New York production) and the Broadway production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh. Three display cases in the middle of the room contain important and delicate items, likc a record of the music of Victor Herbert, the famous composer born in Dublin and raised in Germany. A piano sits along the right wall, adorned with photographs, a tune book and a sign inviting the spectator to sit down at the bench and play one of the tunes – maybe “The Wearing of the Green,” or Thomas Moore’s “The Minstrel Boy.”

Signaling the end of this portion of the exhibition is a banner of Kitty O’Neil, legendary Irish dancer primarily of the New York stage of the late 1800s. Entering the next area, the eye is drawn to a glass display case in the middle of the room, containing traditional Irish dance costumes and shoes, many donated to the exhibition. Maura Mulligan, an Irish language teacher and céilí dance instructor, told Irish America about donating her Irish dance outfit to the exhibition. “My McNiff [School of Irish Dance] dance costume from 1960 is the oldest one in the collection of dance dresses, and it’s a great honor to donate it to the exhibit...The costume, beautiful in its simplicity was designed by Mrs. McNiff, the teacher’s mother.” The right side of the room features a video compilation on Irish dance, with performances by Chicago’s Trinity Irish Dance Company, Celtic Tiger Live, an instructional scene on Irish dancing, and a peek into one of Jean Butler’s master classes. Beneath the video is a small stage where visitors can try a step. On the far right is a showcase of traditional Irish music instruments, including a tin whistle, harp and button accordion. Nearby, iconic costumes from Riverdance are on display.


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{Arts}

The Ties that Bind’ PHOTO: RENE

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RONDA

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The left side is dedicated to Irish music and verse, with a comprehensive listening station. With four sets of headphones, a group can listen to the music together. There’s a traditional rendition of “The Black Rose,” as well as nontraditional versions of “The Minstrel Boy” performed by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. More contemporary performers, such as U2 and Flogging Molly, mingle with Bing Crosby. Versions of “Danny Boy/Londonderry Air” are performed by a diverse group of performers including Elvis, Mahalia Jackson and John McCormack. Fionnula Flanagan reads from Molly Bloom’s soliloquy at the end of James Joyce’s Ulysses – a prime example of spoken verse. Against the back wall of the gallery, the St. Patrick’s Day exhibit is in clear sight. Look up: hanging above are a variety of county association banners. In a huge vitrine stand manequins donning an assortment of St. Patrick’s Day Parade outfits dating back to the 1960s. Another video reel showcases highlights from

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past parades. Played at a faster speed, the clips from the older parades make the men and women marchers look as though they’re skittering triumphantly up 5th Avenue. It might take a while, but watch patiently for the highlight of the reel: Gene Kelly performing “The Hat My Dear Old Father Wore upon St. Patrick’s Day” from Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949). Anytime you get to watch Gene Kelly dance it’s a phenomenal experience. Transitioning away from St. Patrick’s Day, the exhibition moves to oral histories. An astounding range is available for listening, and a wall displays the names and pictures of the people interviewed, from Liz Carroll to Gabriel Byrne. The exhibition ends in an unusual way – in a 1960s era Irish-American living room. The final installation has the usual furnishings of a living room from the time period: a television console with dials; a radio; a couch, a coffee table. As with anything else, it is the details that make the room Irish-American. On the wall across from the television hang a framed Sacred Heart of Jesus painting, a rural Irish scene featuring a cottage, and a portrait of President John F. Kennedy. The television airs three extended clips, including scenes from The Jackie Gleason Show and a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on The Ed Sullivan Show.

1. The Advocate Players, 1932, including James A. Hayden and The McNulty Family. 2. St. Patrick's Day postcard, circa 1910. 3. Maura Mulligan, Vera Wren and Sadie McHugh, ready to compete in “The Three Hand Reel” at a New York Feis in 1960. 4. County society outfits and the dress and coat worn by Dorothy Hayden Cudahy, first female Grand Marshal of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, in 1989. 5. Irish Dance costumes. 6. Curator Marion Casey with her husband, David Smith, on opening night, standing beside her own Irish dancing dress from 1979. 7. A mid 20th century Irish-American living room.

The radio plays three sets of songs dating back to the early 1900s, including Bing Crosby singing “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-LooRa.” The exhibition’s joyous celebration of historical connections between the performing arts and the everyday aspects of both cultures will appeal to all ages and interests. Children will embrace the opportunity to try step dancing. Music aficionados will appreciate the diversity of discography available. Theater buffs will love the play scenes available for viewing, and no one who has ever set foot in an Irish-American home will be able to resist the nostalgic welcome of the living room installation. The exhibition’s curator, Prof. Marion Casey, Clinical Professor of Irish Studies and Senior Archivist, Archives of Irish America at NYU, best described the exhibition to Irish America: “There has never been anything like this for Irish America. What a rare opportunity to showcase some of the rich archival treasures in New York City repositories that document our performance history in this country!...It is thrilling to be able to teach through an exhibition that reaches so many people in the world’s premier performing arts forum, Lincoln IA Center.” “Ireland-America: The Ties That Bind” is open Monday – Saturday, now through August 13th. JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 71


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CONTEMPORARY

By Tara Dougherty

Cashier No. 9

TRADITIONAL

• To the Death of Fun

Ian Walsh and Kevin Buckley • Keeping It Reel

Belfast has for many years been a hub for contemporary Irish music. One of the newest acts to emerge from the hometown of Van Morrison is Cashier No. 9.After securing gigs opening for Snow Patrol and playing at the famed Glastonbury Music Festival, the quintet has finally released their debut album, To the Death of Fun. Their vocals sound like you’d find them in Venice, CA: a lovely array of harmonies reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash. On the heels of the explosive success of new folk interpreters like Seattle’s Fleet Foxes and London’s Mumford and Sons, Cashier No. 9 is emerging onto a music scene primed for their style. Their track “Goldstar” uses bells throughout the song, establishing a bopping rhythm and lending an air of frivolity. It is a catchy song, like a newage Beach Boys number broken up by a much welcomed harmonica solo. Cashier No. 9 is an inventive alternative pop band with great potential and IA a solid debut album.

What caught my ear initially on Ian Walsh’s and Kevin Buckley’s album Keeping It Reel, was the chemistry between the two players, which extends from over two decades of playing together. It really shines through in this record, a blend of American roots music and traditional Irish tunes, because their fiddle and guitar portions were in large part recorded live. Both award-winning fiddlers, Walsh and Buckley understand the richness of sparing instrumentation. On the opening track “Mayor Harrison’s Fedora,” they keep the focus of the reel on the fiddle and allow the bodhran and guitar to work as interchangeable fills. The song, a reference to a former mayor of Chicago, is a playful and intimate recording. They then explore the Irish in the Appalachians with the old song “Say Darlin’ Say,” enlisting Tommy Martin on the uilleann pipes. The arrangement allows for hints of Celtic traditional fiddle playing while remaining very true to the song’s American country roots. The album is crisp, fun and expertly played: a comforting Sunday morning record.

Brendan Begley & Caoimhin O Raghallaigh • A Moment of Madness This trad duo combines button accordion and fiddle to record favorites of the Irish music world. Brendan Begley embraces a simple style with his accordion, avoiding over-ornamentation with a more straightforward melodic interpretation than many trad listeners are used to. Caoimhin O Raghallaigh complements this with his fiddle, driving the rhythm of the album with his precision. The album is traditional but somewhat rigid. Perfect for the Irish dance world but perhaps a little too regimented for the everyday listener. “Cronin Slippery Jig” is an entrancing track, though, where the pair’s commitment to that stripped-down sound really pays off. Begley’s story is included in the inside cover of the album: once a Dublin schoolteacher, one day he read his horoscope, which made a welcome suggestion: “Follow your heart. A moment of madness is better than a life of logic.” Begley took this nugget of astrological

Greatest Irish Americans of the 20th Century Edited by Patricia Harty Foreword by Senator Edward Kennedy The triumphs of the Irish in literature, music, family life, history, politics, and so many other fields are the triumphs of America, too, and all of us are very proud of them. –Senator Edward Kennedy (From the Foreword) Greatest Irish Americans of the 20th Century is a celebration of Irish Americans, their contribution, and their impact on American history, culture and life.

Signed by the author. $20 includes S&H. Contact: tara@irishamerica.com or call 212 725 2993 x.150 to order. 72 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

The impact of over 150 Irish Americans, among them James Cagney, Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Ford, and John F. Kennedy, is captured in this book through profiles and photos. Essays and reflections from prominent Irish American writers are featured throughout, including: The Paddy Clancy Cell, by Frank McCourt JFK – Our Jack, by Pete Hamill Two Grandfathers, by William Kennedy John Ford – The Quiet Man, by Joseph McBride My Wild Irish Mother – by Mary Higgins Clark John Steinbeck – The Voice of the Dispossessed, by Jim Dwyer


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A selection of recently published books of Irish and Irish-American interest.

Recommended The Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game

an Barry, renowned New York Times columnist and two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, saw something in the longest game in the history of professional baseball: that it was about much more than baseball. It was an April 1981 Triple A minor league game between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox. With a tied score of 2-2, the game continued until 4:00 a.m. on a cold Easter Sunday. A misprint in the 1981 Minor League Handbook had excluded the guidelines for games that went into excessive overtime, so the teams played on until the Red Sox managers finally contacted the league president, who advised them to pause the game. It resumed in July and finally ended after 33 grueling innings. Barry does much more than relay the facts of the record-setting game, he gets to the heart of it. From the first page, when his narrative slowly zooms in on the quiet town of Pawtucket, Rhode Island and settles on the decrepit, depression-era McCoy Stadium, Barry begins to build a stunning panorama of a baseball game, a moment in history, and all the lives involved. Though ostensibly about baseball, The Bottom of the 33rd is also about America. Barry sees beyond, for example, the announcer’s calling of the players’ names: “If Drew had rattled off the birthplaces of each player, rather than their names, he would have sung an anthem of the Americas...From the mill towns of New England to the suburbs of the Pacific Coast; from the housing projects of the Midwest to the sugar-cane fields of the Caribbean: a ballad of bus fumes and ambition.” But it isn’t just the ballplayers. Barry overlooks no one: the team owners and managers, the Pawtucket Coach Joe Morgan (of later Boston fame), down to the bat boy, the clubhouse manager, and the brave few attendees who lasted in the stands through the cold night and morning. A masterful storyteller, he deftly decides when to tell and when to hold back what is already known to history. The fate of Wade Boggs the third baseman for

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Pawtucket? Those not quite as familiar with the baseball greats of the 1980s learn early on that he will make it to the major league. And what of Dave Koza, the PawSox’s first baseman, “baseball old” at age 26 and dying for a real chance in the majors? Not until the very end do we find out what became of Koza – who would likely be the main character if it could be said that this collage of a book had one – and what became of many of the other people brought together that night. The research this must have involved and the empathy Barry has for each individual is astounding and makes for a wholly engrossing and affecting book – for lovers of baseball and lovers of literature alike. – Sheila Langan (288 pages / Harper Collins / $26.99)

Bullfighting hose who read to escape reality, to immerse themselves in a fictional world more interesting and more exciting than their own, probably won't be very taken by Bullfighting, Roddy Doyle's second collection of short stories. Unless, that is, they happen to find something particularly exotic in the everyday lives and innermost thoughts of thirteen middle-aged, middle-class Dublin men. Famous for realistically, humorously, and empathetically chronicling the lives of often overlooked Dubliners in novels like The Commitments, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, and the Booker prize winning Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha, Doyle now turns his attention to fathers and husbands of a certain age, quietly puzzling over or simply going about their lives. Some of them, like Hanahoe in “Recuperation,” have lost track of things. On his daily walks up the highway for exercise (doctor’s orders following a brief, unexplained health scare) he wonders when and how things got so bad between him and his wife without him even noticing. Others, like George in “Animals,” obliquely question their purpose now that the kids are grown and out of the house. But others, like the narrator

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of the final story, “Sleep,” are – more or less – content, “shockingly happy” even, by what life has brought them. Doyle explores these states of mind and being without the slightest trace of sentimentality or unwarranted cliché. The stories are not the most exciting or action-filled, but then, neither, for the most part, is life. Bullfighting is all the more important and moving for that very honesty and plainness – Sheila Langan (215 pages / Viking / $25.95)

Fiction

Minding Frankie

et in modern-day Dublin, Maeve Binchy’s Minding Frankie chronicles Noel Lynch’s dramatically changing life as he learns that a former fling is pregnant with his child and is dying of lung cancer. Though struggling with alcoholism, Noel takes custody of the little girl, Frankie, and with the help of his American cousin Emily, builds a support system of family, friends and neighbors all willing to help watch Frankie. The only person not happy with these arrangements is Moira Tierney, the social worker in charge of Frankie’s case, who believes the little girl would be better off in foster care. Here, Binchy explores how everyone in a community can positively contribute, as Noel and his neighbors work to disprove Moira’s belief that a “proper” home consists of a mom and a dad: sometimes it really does take a village to raise a child. Binchy deftly creates an intriguing and diverse cast of characters, from problemsolving Cousin Emily to the uptight social worker, Moira. True to current events, Binchy does not shy away from Ireland’s economic troubles and their influence on the lives of several people in the novel. Though it may take new readers a while to figure out who’s who, loyal Binchy fans will recognize some of these characters from previous works. With a nice balance of hilarious, poignant and everyday moments, Minding Frankie is the perfect book for a leisurely spring weekend.

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– Kristin Romano (383 pages / Knopf / $26.95)


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Maine

ith the publication of her debut novel, Commencement, in 2009, J. Courtney Sullivan adeptly proved her ability to inhabit multiple consciousnesses simultaneously, slipping easily between the narratives of different women whose disparate perspectives are often at odds with one another but voiced with equal depth and sympathy. Sullivan exercises this skill again in Maine, a delectable beach read as vast and sprawling in scope as the Kellehers’ threeacre family property it details. Won by Daniel, the deceased head of the family, in a poker game six decades before the book opens, the Kelleher summer home is still at the mercy of the fates and the family matriarch, Alice, who takes to heart the letters that Daniel carved into a tree at the fork of the road leading to the cottage: A.H., Alice’s house. But Alice’s prodigal daughter Kathleen; daughter-in-law Ann Marie, whose perfectionism is channeled into a cleverly conveyed obsession with dollhouses; and granddaughter Maggie, struggling to carve out a functional adulthood amidst heartbreak and disappointment; all stake their own claims on the Kelleher house as well as on the family history of alcoholism, tragedy, dark secrets and Catholic guilt that persists through generations. In Maine, Sullivan explores with grace, depth and good humor what it means to belong to an Irish-American family.

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– Kara Rota (386 pages / Knopf / $25.95)

The Linen Queen

ollowing her highly praised debut novel, The Yellow House, comes Patricia Falvey’s second work of historical fiction, The Linen Queen. Falvey, who grew up in Northern Ireland, uses her knowledge of history and the area to tell the story of Sheila McGee, a young woman who dreams of escaping her smalltown life as a mill worker in County Armagh. Initially, I found it difficult to like Sheila. Her self-centered personality comes though strongly as she makes it her goal to get the attention she believes she deserves. For a while, the beautiful girl receives that attention as she is crowned the town’s Linen Queen, the face and spokeswoman of the millworkers. After

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receiving prize money for this honor, Sheila is ready to make her escape to a new life in England, but her plans change as the world is turned upside down by the events of World War II. Ever focused on her goal, Sheila sees potential in the arrival of the American troops. She attracts Joel Solomon, a Jewish-American army officer, who she plans to use as her way out. Instead, she finds herself falling for him. Sheila starts to see the world through different perspectives as she gets to know Joel and a young, troubled Belfast evacuee named Grainne. The Linen Queen takes the reader through an emotional ride as World War II transforms the lives of those in Northern Ireland and Sheila McGee possibly learns to leave her old ways behind.

idiosyncratic foods. Eating for Ireland reads as a light-hearted culinary history – tracking and gently poking fun at the slow evolution of restaurants from serving the soggy trifecta of peas, corn and carrots; attempting to pinpoint the origins of red lemonade (likely from the beverage company Nash’s in the late 1800s), and much more. The book is a delightful trip down memory lane and a thorough rendering of how Ireland’s palate has changed in the past century. My only word of caution is to have a snack on hand – Doorley’s descriptions are that good.

-Katie McFadden (320 pages / Hachette Books / $21.99)

Niall Mac Coitir’s Ireland’s Animals: Myths, Legends & Folklore is a lovely, informative book dedicated to “the animals that have shaped the landscape of Ireland,” such as horses, cows, bees and salmon. Each animal’s chapter is comprised of three sections: “Folk Beliefs and Customs,” “Myths and Legends” and “Relations with Humans,” and lovingly illustrated by Gordon D’Arcy, whose stunning, original watercolors, bring the magic and wonder of these animals to life. A nice blend of natural history, mythology and Irish folklore, Ireland’s Animals is hard to put down. This is in great part due to Mac Coitir’s fluid, down-to-earth writing style. Some of the most engaging moments are when he describes various folk cures associated with an animal. The mythology explored goes beyond Celtic mythology to Classical (Greek and Roman) mythology and Egyptian mythology, exploring links between animal myths, from The Táin Bó Cúailgne and Cú Chulainn to Pan the Greek god of nature and the Celtic horned god Cernunnos. One purpose of the book, Mac Coitir writes, is “to rediscover the sense of wonder about animals that has been lost in the modern, more scientific approach.” In Ireland’s Animals, he IA succeeds in doing just that.

Non Fiction Eating for Ireland

oath as I am to admit to judging a book by its cover, at first glance I was drawn to Irish food writer Tom Doorley’s latest book, Eating for Ireland. Not by the clever, laudatory quotes from the Sunday Independent and Food and Wine magazine, nor by the nostalgic main cover image of a 70s era child’s birthday party, but by a smaller yet infinitely more alluring graphic: a vintage bag of cheese & onion Tayto crisps. Any book with the potential to bring me back to childhood summers spent in Ireland, gorging myself on the delectably pungent potato chips and other exotic delicacies such as lemon barley water, Jacob’s biscuits, and 99s had to, I was sure, be a delicious read. It was. Doorley, restaurant critic for the Irish Daily Mail and a judge on RTE’s hit show The Restaurant, is a gifted writer whose enthusiasm and curiosity for his subject is both palpable and infectious. In this delightful collection of essays, he reminisces about his own experiences with everything from Marmite and Oxo cubes, soft-boiled eggs and banana sandwiches, to a tender account of his mother’s love of pepper. These personal anecdotes mingle nicely with Doorley’s larger exploration of the origins and histories of some of Ireland’s most beloved and

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– Sheila Langan (250 pages / Liberties Press/Dufour Editions / $22.95)

Ireland’s Animals: Myths, Legends & Folklore

– Kristin Romano (264 pages / The Collins Press/Dufour Editions / $48.95) JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 75


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{sláinte} By Edythe Preet

City of Literature Dublin’s rich literary tradition is heralded.

hen I was young, my father’s oft repeated favorite riddle was: What is the richest country in the world? The first time he quizzed me, I wracked my brain and offered a few feeble guesses. When he could contain his mirth no longer, with a grin, a twinkle, and a nudge to my ribs he chuckled: “Ireland, of course! Because its capital is always doublin’!!” As one of Europe’s oldest cities, Dublin witnessed centuries of Irish hard times, most notably and tragically during the Great Famines of the 19th century. By the end of the 20th century, however, the country’s prosperity was so strong it was being referred to as ‘The Irish Tiger.’ Had Ireland’s contribution to literature been weighed instead of its coffers, the sobriquet would likely have been coined much earlier. In that Ireland is just a tiny island positioned on a globe dominated by massive continents with equally massive populations, its contribution to the world’s literature – in all forms – is disproportionately huge. Perhaps the climate has something to do with it. Personally, I am more inclined to sit and write when the sky is murky with rain than when sunshine lures me outdoors. Whatever the reason, the Irish tradition of storytelling long predates the written word. With the exception of ogham lines (see Sláinte April/May 2011) that were mainly used for inscriptions, the Irish did not become a ‘literate’ people until the advent of Christianity in the 5th century. Prior to that time, all folklore and family histories were handed down from generation to generation via an oral tradition requiring extraordinary memorization skills, with some sagas consisting of up to 8,000 lines. Even the Brehon Laws, which minutely defined every right and obligation of the complex social strata,

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were committed to memory. All that changed once Church scholars adapted the Irish language to the Latin alphabet and recorded the major stories from the Old Irish period in four ‘cycles.’ The Mythological Cycle tells of the ancient gods and goddesses and the magical Tuatha De Danann. The Ulster Cycle, heroic tales that take place in Ulster and Connacht, centers on the epic Tain Bo Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). Similarly, the Fenian Cycle is a collection of stories about heroes the most famous being Fionn mac Cumhail. The Historical Cycle is a quasi-mythological poetic genealogy of the High Kings until the reign of Brian Boru who united the island in the 10th century. Through the Medieval Period, storytelling was largely the province of bards who found patronage with the local aristocracy. As England’s control over the island increased, bringing with it social and political upheaval, there was little

A statuesque Joyce impersonator strolls through Dublin.

interest in the older culture. By the 19th century, the English-speaking middle class was the dominant cultural force. It was then that the first great modern Irish writers emerged, many of whom left indelible marks on the world’s literature. Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels, A Tale of a Tub), a biting satirist, was Ireland’s first famous writer of modern times. Oliver Goldsmith (The Vicar of Wakefield, She Stoops To Conquer) became a member of London’s literary establishment. Bram Stoker (Dracula) singlehandedly invented the ‘horror genre.’ The works of Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest) enthrall audiences today as much if not more than they did when originally written. The same can be said of George Bernard Shaw (Pygmalion, Major Barbara, Caesar and Cleopatra), Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), Brendan Behan (An Giall: The Hostage), W.B. Yeats (The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems), John Millington Synge (The Playboy of the Western World), and Sean O’Casey (Juno and the Paycock, The Plough and the Stars). The list of illustrious Irish writers is much longer than the few luminaries mentioned here, but none has perhaps had as great an impact on the very form of world literature as Dublin’s own James Joyce in his masterwork Ulysses. Set on June 16, 1904, Ulysses records the events of an average day in the lives of three Dubliners: Leopold Bloom, a frustrated advertisement canvasser; his wife Molly, a lusty amateur opera singer; and Stephen Daedalus, a moody poet and part-time teacher at a boys school. The story structure parallels Homer’s Odyssey with Bloom’s one-day trek around Dublin allegorically likened to the Greek hero Ulysses’ nineteen-year struggle to find his way home. It is the saga of a man exiled by loneliness whose search for social, political and ethical fulfillment is thwarted by the situations of his environment.


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RECIPES

Joyce, himself a voluntary exile, left Ireland at the age of twenty-four and spent the rest of his life in Europe. Except for two brief visits years later, he never again spent time in the city he so loved. But every cobblestone of Dublin’s twisting, winding streets was etched in his memory. Joyce once remarked that if the city were ever destroyed, it could be reconstructed from the pages of his novels: Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, Dubliners, Finnegans Wake, and Ulysses. Denounced as vulgar on publication for its sexual content and profanity, Ulysses was banned from distribution for decades. The literary world now acknowledges that the characters’ extensive mental musings set the standard for all future interior monologues. Today, Joyce’s masterwork is hailed as the seminal modernist novel and one of the greatest contributions to world literature Bloom’s peregrinations have familiarized readers everywhere with the streets, pubs and monuments (which Bloom calls ‘street furnishings’) of everyday Dublin. Millions visit the city annually to walk in their flawed hero’s footsteps, and each year on June 16th, known far and wide as Bloomsday, Dublin honors one of its most famous, albeit fictional, sons. In 2010, UNESCO declared Dublin to be a ‘City of Literature’ as part of its Creative Cities Network, which was launched in 2004. No disrespect intended, but I cannot help but wonder why it took the venerable organization six years to place Dublin, a city where literary capital is always increasing exponentially, on the world’s literature map. When I told a professorial pal of mine that I was attempting to encapsulate two thousand years of Irish literature in one thousand words, he responded, “In university circles, it is commonly quipped that, with the exception of Shakespeare, there is no such thing – really – as English literature. It’s all Irish.” Sláinte! IA

Throughout Ulysses, Joyce shows how food is part of one’s daily life, future plans and fantasies. It reflects social class and individual temperament, and offers opportunities for interaction. It symbolizes sex, and its rituals are interwoven with culture, customs and values. During lunch, Bloom muses on the food choices of the “Crème de la crème,” contrasting them to the “hermit with a platter of pulse,” and concludes that food, like dress, defines personality: “Know me come eat with me.” (Chapter Eight: Lestrygonians). If your own peregrinations will not carry you to a site where Bloomsday is being celebrated, consider replicating Bloom’s lunch. With a Gorgonzola cheese and mustard sandwich and a glass of Burgundy in hand, open a copy of Ulysses to the final chapter, Penelope, which Joyce devotes to the feminine regenerative principle of the universe. In the final pages, Molly Bloom’s famous soliloquy, one long uninterrupted sentence describing her first amorous encounter with Bloom, ends with the word “Yes” – Joyce’s conclusive affirmation of life and the power of love.

Liver Slices Fried with Crust Crumbs & Bacon

Davy Byrnes Pub’s Gorgonzola Sandwich

“Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencod’s roes. Most of all, he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.” (Ulysses, Chapter Four: Calypso)

Davy Byrnes Pub has been a Dublin landmark since opening in 1889 and a world literature landmark since Leopold Bloom stopped in for lunch on June 16, 1904. The Gorgonzola Sandwich is still on the menu. “Mr. Bloom ate his stripes of sandwich, fresh clean bread, with relish of disgust, pungent mustard, the feety savour of green cheese. Sips of his wine soothed his palate. ….. After all there’s a lot in that vegetarian fine flavour of things from the earth.” (Ulysses, Chapter 8: Lestrygonians)

(The Joyce of Cooking, Alison Armstrong)

4 thin slices of calf liver 1 cup dry breadcrumbs seasoned with back pepper and paprika 4 slices smoked Irish bacon 2 medium onions, thinly sliced 1 tablespoon butter 1 cup beef broth 1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Dredge liver in seasoned breadcrumbs and set aside. In a heavy skillet, brown bacon until limp but not crisp, then set aside on a warm plate. Gently cook the onion in the bacon fat until soft and set aside with the bacon. Add butter to the skillet, increase heat slightly and saute liver on both sides. Reduce heat, add beef broth and bay leaf. Cook slowly for 15 minutes. When the liver is tender, set aside with bacon and onions. Raise heat to medium, sprinkle cornstarch into the pan juices and stir until it has the consistency of gravy. Pour “bogswamp brown trickles of gravy” over the liver slices, bacon and onions. Makes two servings.

Sliced soda bread Thick slab of Gorgonzola cheese Pungent mustard Sliced tomatoes Butter lettuce leaves Unsalted butter Fresh ground pepper

Butter the bread, slather with mustard, layer with lettuce, tomato, add a thick slab of Gorgonzola cheese and sprinkle with pepper. Don’t skimp on the mustard. Bloom didn’t. “Mr. Bloom cut his sandwich into slender strips…He studded under each lifted strip yellow blobs.”

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{crossword} By Darina Molloy

ACROSS

1 (& 24 down) Great Gatsby character brought to screen by Leonardo DiCaprio (3) 2 See 32 down (7) 6 Seize or take forcefully (4) 8 (& 13 down) Journalist who penned incisive Vanity Fair article about Ireland (7) 10 (& 11 across) I’ll ___ _____: Newest Mary Higgins Clark novel (4) 11 See 10 across (5) 14 Social networking site (8) 16 (& 30 down) Tyrone football manager whose daughter was murdered on honeymoon (6) 17 Unadorned (5) 18 ____ Valley: Waterford beauty spot (4) 21 Frightening (5) 23 See 33 down (10) 26 Surnames of John and Edward in 31 across (6) 27 Contentious July date in North of Ireland (7) 28 (& 29 across) Flushing, NY comedian very popular in Ireland (3) 29 See 28 across (6) 31 Madcap twin brothers band (7) 34 __ Post: Irish postal service (2) 36 See 22 down (5) 39 The Bell ___ by Sylvia Plath (3) 40 Treasure ____ (5) 41. (& 7 down) Father of the U.S. Navy (4) 42 Ancient tomb or monument (6)

DOWN

1 Short for James (3) 2 See Irish Harry Potter (7) 3 (& 35 down) Irish writer of Tales from Bective Bridge (4) 4 (& 15 down) Catholic policeman murdered in NI in March (5)

5 See 18 down (5) 6 Swimming competition or fancy event (4) 7 See 41 across (5) 9 This Michael’s wartime letters were sold for $300k at auction in April (7) 12 Irish-speaking area (9) 13 See 8 across (5) 15 See 4 down (4) 18 (& 5 down) Obama special advisor on Libya (8) 19 Smallest Aran island (8) 20 Last name of TV’s Dan and Roseanne (6) 22 (& 36 across) Renowned spiritual retreat in Limerick (8) 24 See 1 across (6) 25 Portuguese capital (6)

Win a subscription to Irish America magazine Please send your completed crossword puzzle to Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001, to arrive no later than June 30, 2011. A winner will be drawn from among all correct entries. If there are no correct solutions, the prize will be awarded for the completed puzzle which comes closest in the opinion of our staff. Winner’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies are acceptable. Winner of the April/May Crossword: Harriet Hayes, Ridgefield, CT 78 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

30 See 16 across (5) 32 (& 2 across) Labour party leader in Ireland (5) 33 (& 23 across) Irish economist and broadcaster (5) 35 See 3 down (5) 37 To change water to steam by applying heat (4) 38 Of long ago (4)

April / May Solution


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Those We Lost Eugene Byrne 1945-2011

Irish folk singer, festival organizer and tour guide Eugene Byrne passed away at his home in Dover, Mass. on March 24, after a long battle with cancer. He was 65. As a folk singer, Byrne, who was born in Dublin, made the stages at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Merv Griffin Show and venues around the world. He worked with several groups including the Garrison Brothers, the New Folk Trio and the Blarney Folk. Byrne’s dream of starting a local Irish Festival came true in 2003. The Seacoast Irish Festival ran until 2005, when it was discontinued due to local politics, but was brought back in 2010. Byrne was responsible for arranging the festival’s musical acts. He is also remembered as a guide to Ireland. He owned and operated Byrne Entertainment and Tours, and made his tours special by narrating the history of the country through stories, jokes and songs. Byrne is survived by his wife of 41 years, Maura, two sons, Gene and Kevin, and three grandchildren. He was laid to rest in Finglas, Co. Dublin. – K.M.

Gil Clancy 1922 – 2011

I met Gil Clancy in 1984, while researching a book about the sport and business of boxing. Gil had already earned acclaim as a hall-of-fame trainer, manager, and matchmaker. At the time, he was providing expert commentary for CBS’s boxing telecasts and also had considerable input into which fights the network bought. Gil viewed me with a healthy dose of skepticism. I was chronicling the exploits of WBC super-lightweight champion Billy Costello and manager Mike Jones. Gil was suspicious of outsiders who appeared on the scene to write about his beloved sport. “Jesus, Mike,” he demanded at one negotiating session. “Do you have to keep bringing this guy with you all the time?” “Yes,” Mike told him. After a while, Gil got used to having me 80 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011

Gil Clancy with Micky Ward at Top 100 gala, 2003

around and a friendship was forged. As the years passed, he became one of my “go to” guys whenever I needed to educate myself on a particular facet of boxing. Eight years ago, I had the pleasure of writing about him for this magazine when he was honored as one of the “Top 100.” Boxing is a shady business. The warning “protect yourself at all times” applies to action outside the ring as well as in it. Trainer Jimmy Glenn once famously said, “Everybody in boxing wants to screw somebody. They don’t feel comfortable, they think they’re doing something wrong, if they’re not screwing somebody.” Gil was the antithesis of that. His word was his bond. He was a straight shooter and voice of reason in an often irrational , duplicitous sport. Over the years, he won countless awards for his contributions to the sweet science. He was part of that wonderful group of people who love boxing, understand boxing and ennoble the sport with their presence. Gil died on March 31 after a long illness at age 88. Boxing and the Irish-American community will miss him. – Tom Hauser

John J. Concannon 1924-2011

John J. Concannon passed away on March 3 in Austin, TX. He was 86. Born in the Bronx, NY on July 1, 1924 to Irish immigrant parents, Concannon graduated from the City College and began his journalism career in 1948 in the mailroom of Collier’s Magazine, leaving six years later as the writer of the “What’s New” column. In 1954, he joined Newsweek, where he become the Associate Editor, retiring in 1989. An active member of the Galway Men’s

Association of NY, Concannon worked as the PR director of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade from 1966-1985. In 1984, he co-wrote The Irish American Who’s Who. He also wrote numerous stories for a multitude of Irish publications, including the Irish Echo. He is survived by his daughters, Allanah Feeney and Mary Helen Foley; his son-in-law Michael Foley; his brother James, of the Irish Christian Brothers; five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. His wife Bridget passed away in 2006. – K.R.

Seán Cronin 1920-2011

Seán Cronin died on March 9 in Maryland after a long illness. He was 91. Cronin was born in Dublin and raised in Co. Kerry. When he was four, his father, a veteran of the Irish War of Independence, died. Cronin joined the Irish Army in December 1941 and, upon discharge, moved to the United States. After returning to Dublin in 1955, he joined the Evening Press as a subeditor and volunteered for the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He twice served as IRA Chief of Staff (1957-1958, 1959-1960). Imprisoned twice for his republican activities, Cronin left the IRA in the early 1960s and returned to the U.S., serving as the first Washington correspondent for The Irish Times until 1991. He also wrote numerous books and pamphlets, including “Washington’s Irish Policy 1916-1986.” Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said of Cronin, “Seán supported the peace process and offered advice and help.” Cronin’s first wife, Terry, passed away in 1977. He is survived by his second wife Reva Rubenstein Cronin, a step-son Philip and two step-grandsons. Cronin’s ashes were scattered in Iveragh, Co. Kerry. – K.R.

Lawrence F. Hickey 1910 – 2010

Lawrence Hickey died at his home in Manhattan on March 28. He was 90. As benefactor and board member of Astor Services for Children and Families from 1981 to 2004, Hickey helped acquire the Little Red School House in the Bronx. The building, which houses an early development program for children


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with emotional and mental disorders, was later named in his honor. Born in Brooklyn, Hickey earned a B.A. from Notre Dame. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before joining his family’s construction business. For his charitable work, Hickey, who was also a board member of the Kennedy Child Study Center, received several awards and honors. He is survived by a son, Frank, daughters, Elizabeth, Magee and Jane, and 11 grandchildren. Hickey’s life will be celebrated at a fundraiser to benefit the Lawrence F. Hickey Center in Manhattan on May 14. His daughter, CBS newswoman Magee Hickey, will perform with several other newscasters from different stations. Call 845-871-1171 for details. – K.M.

Ellen McCormack 1926-2011

Ellen McCormack died on March 27 in Avon, Connecticut. She was 84. In both 1976 and 1980 she ran for President as a pro-life candidate. In 1976, McCormack won 238,000 votes in 18 Democratic primaries, and 22 delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention. She ran again in 1980 under the Right to Life party and qualified for the ballot in three states and won more than 32,000 votes. McCormack was born Eleanor Rose Cullen on September 15, 1926. He mother was born in Co. Leitrim, one of 16 children, and immigrated to the U.S. at age 16. McCormack’s father emigrated from Co. Wicklow as a child. McCormack began to focus on the issue of abortion when it became legal in New York in 1970. She soon became a member of the Pro-Life Action Committee. Her husband, Francis, passed away in 1993. She is survived by her daughters Kathleen, Anne and Ellen, a son, John; grandchildren; and greatgrandchildren. – K.M.

Jim Seymour 1946-2011

James Patrick Seymour, a Notre Dame receiving star passed away at 64 on March 29 in Highland Park, Illinois after a battle with cancer. Born on November 24, 1946 in Detroit, Seymour established many records and earned All-America

honors during his three seasons with the Fighting Irish. He made a strong offensive combination with teammate Terry Hanratty. Both were featured on the cover of Time in 1966. Upon graduation in 1969, Seymour was the all-time receiving leader at Notre Dame, with 138 catches for 2,113 yards and 16 touchdowns. He ranks sixth on Notre Dame’s career chart for receptions. Seymour was a first-round draft pick for the Los Angeles Rams, but he turned it down and joined the Chicago Bears from 1970-1972. He appeared in 31 career games with the Bears, recording 21 receptions for 385 yards with 5 touchdowns. A hamstring injury in his senior year at Notre Dame limited him in his professional career with the NFL. After leaving the football life behind, Seymour became the owner of BGS Insurance Agency in Arlington Heights, IL. He also worked with several charities in the state. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Garvey, their sons Jim Jr., Jeff and Todd, four brothers, a sister and six grandchildren. – K.M.

John Sullivan 1963 - 2011

For a time, it seems, John Sullivan’s life followed a certain, not terribly surprising trajectory. Raised in Sleepy Hollow, NY, he was a quarterback for the high school football team and a pitcher for the baseball team. After college, Sullivan entered sales and worked for Strick Leasing Company and the Carrier Corporation, where he found professional and financial success. Then, unable to ignore the homeless he saw all over New York, he enrolled at Fordham to pursue a degree in social work and devoted the rest of his life to helping others. Sullivan died on April 5, at New York Presbyterian Hospital, with family and friends nearby. His death followed a recent diagnosis of esophageal cancer. He began working with the homeless in 1995, when he joined Pathways to Housing. There, he worked to find homeless people suffering from addiction and mental illness and to coax them off the street and into housing. As the Executive

Director of Friends House, he oversaw support services for once homeless AIDS sufferers, and he most recently worked as director of case management and an interventionist at Gallant and Associates. In 2001 he married Mary Brosnahan, executive director of Coalition for the Homeless, a match the New York Times described as “a royal wedding in the homeless domain.” They had a son, Quinn, in 2002, but separated sometime later in light of Sullivan’s struggle with alcoholism. The two remained very close, though, and raised their son equally, as Sullivan found great support at AA. In addition to Brosnahan and Quinn, Sullivan is survived by his parents, two sisters, and many nieces and nephews. Though too brief, his life was lived admirably in the aid of others. – S.L.

Chrysandra Walters 1947-2011

Chrysandra “Sandy” Walters, a retired senior U.S. National Park Service official, passed away on March 21 in Scarborough, ME after a long battle with cancer. She was 63. Walters was born on November 29, 1947 and raised in Palo Alto, CA. She graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in Park Administration and Recreation. Walters spent her career with the National Parks Service, eventually becoming the Northeast Deputy Regional Director, overseeing the national parks and services programs in the 13-state region. Prior to this, she was the Superintendent of the Lowell National Historic Park. During her tenure as Superintendent, Walters co-hosted the Lowell National Folk Festival, discovering a love of music in the process. Through the festival she met her husband, Seamus Connelly, a worldrenowned fiddler from Killaloe, Co. Clare. Married for eight years at the time of her death, Walters and Connolly developed a priceless partnership. Her organizational skills have been credited as being an asset as her husband ran the Gaelic Roots Summer School at Boston College’s Chestnut Hill campus from 1996-2003, and has run the Gaelic Roots concert series since 2003. Walters is survived by her husband; her mother and stepfather, Winnie and Larry Moore; two sisters and three stepchildren. —K.R. JUNE / JULY 2011 IRISH AMERICA 81


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{photo album} Family Pictures

Thomas ‘the Zouave’

Delaney

T

his hand-colored daguerrotype is of my great-grandfather Thomas Delaney. According to notes left by my mother, he was “born in Ireland in 1843 and died in New York City in 1887.” An historical anecdote in this connection is that he went off to the Civil War as an eighteen-year-old private in the Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry (Zouaves), one of the most renowned fighting units of the Civil War. Their colorful Zouave uniform, based on the French Zouaves, was part of a craze that swept the United States on the eve of the Civil War. All told, the Union Army fielded 70 Zouaves volunteer regiments, while the Confederates’ Zouave regiments numbered 25. The Fifth New York was considered by many to be the best-drilled volunteer unit in the Federal Army. It also suffered the highest number of casualties in the shortest time. During the Battle of Second Bull Run, 120 men of the 525 man regiment were killed. Thomas was wounded in the littleknown but hard-fought engagement of Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862. This is verified by the regimental history of the Fifth Volunteers, which I have a copy of but have only read sparingly, so fragile is the binding. He was married to my great-grandmother Catherine McBride, who was born in New York City in 1847; my mother’s name was, no surprise, Catherine. Family lore has it that Thomas ran a saloon in Greenwich Village after the war, easy to believe; I understand he hailed from County Cork. I presume that the

term “Volunteers” means what it says and GreatGranddad signed on for the great struggle rather than being drafted. IA – Submitted by Gerald Howard

Please send photographs along with your name, address, phone number, and a brief description to Sheila Langan at Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. If photos are irreplaceable, then please send a good quality reproduction or e-mail the picture at 300 dpi resolution to Irishamag@aol.com. No photocopies, please. We will pay $65 for each submission that we select. 82 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2011


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Irish America, June / July 2011  

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